A look at Day 1 of the Winter Meetings
DALLAS — Billy Beane isn’t shying away from his popularity status at the Winter Meetings, where more than half of all team representatives paid a visit to the A’s general manager on Monday.
“We have not had to leave this room to go meet with other teams,” Beane said in the evening of Day 1 from his suite at Dallas’ Hilton Anatole. “They’ve all had to come here. It’s like I’m the hottest prom date here.”
It’s likely not many will get a second date, though. Beane, who has made everyone not named Jemile Weeks available this winter — All-Star hurlers Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey have sparked the most rumors — noted he heard someone in passing say that interested clubs “wonder how available those players were after talking to us.”
“That brings me to the point that they’re very good, young players, so if we considered doing something, we would want very good, young players back in return,” he said, referring to Gonzalez and Bailey.
At least four teams have been linked to Gonzalez — the Royals, Red Sox, Marlins and Yankees — while Bailey has drawn interest from nearly 10. But the A’s are not shopping them, or anyone else, despite common assumption. Rather, they’re simply being open-minded. And Beane is quick to point out the difference.
Making his 15th appearance at the Winter Meetings in his current position, Beane has typically chosen to use the setting to establish groundwork for deal. That same tactic is likely to hold true this year.
“I don’t think we’re in a position right now where we’re itching to do something, and we’re certainly not far along enough to say that anything would probably happen here,” he said.
Beane does belief there’s a trade match for his pitchers, “but it comes at a price.” He has no reservations dealing within his division — the Rangers and Angels have both checked in on Bailey — while admitting his club has “a long way to go catching up with the rest” of the American League West, where they finished in third place with a 74-88 record this year.
No matter the party involved, Beane is seeking younger talent — more specifically, younger than any player dealt. The hope, then, would be to have that group ready to christen a new stadium in three or four years — a stadium on which he’s hoping to receive the green light soon. The A’s have been stuck in limbo for three years waiting for approval on one from Major League Baseball.
“I think we’re closer because we’ve been told that we are getting closer,” Beane said. “What date that is, I couldn’t tell you. They’ve made clear to us that we are getting close to the end, and that the decision will come around pretty soon, so we’ve taken that and run with it.”
There’s been speculation of an answer coming during January’s owner meetings, one that could spark a rebuilding process that is seemingly already in effect, given the club’s early offseason declaration that bringing in any free agents — including their own — likely wasn’t in the works but that going young was.
“We haven’t taken a definitive step that way,” Beane said of rebuilding. “But certainly a lot of our internal conversations have been along that route. Quite frankly, we’re not quite sure we have a lot of options otherwise.”
Oakland’s immediate need for the 2012 season is in the outfield, where Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus and, sometimes, Hideki Matsui stood ground this year. But all four — DeJesus already signed a two-year deal with the Cubs — are not expected back, leaving three gaping holes in the A’s roster.
It would appear Oakland has options in Ryan Sweeney, along with young faces Michael Taylor, Jai Miller and Jermaine Mitchell. But when asked if he felt comfortable with any internal candidates filling the roles of everyday outfielders, Beane didn’t exactly speak with confidence.
“I think, regardless of what we acquire even through trade, I think there’s going to be a need to add some guys for the short-term,” he said. “I guess that’s my polite way of saying, ‘Listen, with the guys we currently have, not including what we could potentially get back in terms of young players from trade, we may need to add some short-term options.”
Two of Oakland’s better prospects — Michael Choice and Grant Green — are outfielders, but neither is expected to hit the Major League scene come April. The A’s, then, aren’t ruling out signing a free-agent outfielder with a lower profile later in the offseason.
For now, Beane’s only actions will be of the listening kind. He did a lot of that Monday, even on pitchers other than Gonzalez and Bailey.
“We have a good, young pitching staff — not just the obvious guys, but if you look beyond that,” he said. “So there’s been a pretty high level of interest in most of our guys on the Major League staff, as you would expect — some more than others.”