December 2011

Tuesday musings from the Winter Meetings

DALLAS — It’s Day 2 at the Winter Meetings, and there seems to be an escalated dose of buzz in he air, with several trades already going down today among a few teams — none of which were the A’s. However, the Blue Jays swapped players with the White Sox, dealing Nestor Molina for Sergio Santos, who will serve as their new closer. That means one less team is in on Andrew Bailey, who had before been linked with Toronto, among other clubs. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was asked specifically about Bailey while speaking to media following the trade, and though citing his policy of not talking about other teams’ players, noted that he and his staff inquired on “anyone out on the trade market.” You can read between the lines there and assume they did indeed check in on Oakland’s two-time All-Star.

There still appears to be at least six other teams with keen interest in Bailey, and the Red Sox are known to be meeting with Billy Beane and Co. today, with Bailey being a likely topic of discussion. If you recall, the A’s nearly pulled off a trade with Boston right before July’s trade deadline, but the proposed swap of Rich Harden for first base prospect Lars Anderson was never completed. It would make sense, then, for Anderson’s name to come up again today, especially considering the A’s long-term concern at first base, where there’s currently a logjam of unproven players. The A’s might also view Josh Reddick as an attractive name, and it’s thought that Boston would easily give him away. The 24-year-old outfielder has played in 143 big league games, including 87 this year. He hit .280 with a .784 OPS, 18 doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBIs for the Sox and could be just the type of player the A’s are looking for — a young outfielder with a decent bat who can be slotted into an everyday role next year. Yesterday, Beane alluded to the fact he’s not completely comfortable with just sending out the group of inexperienced outfielders he has in tow now. Sure, Michael Taylor, Jermaine Mitchell and Jai Miller are options — but likely not the best ones for the Opening Day starting lineup.

Another intriguing deal to think about: Bailey to San Diego — who lost closer Heath Bell to Miami — in a trade involving Chase Headley. The Padres third baseman just completed his third full big league campaign, hitting .289 with a .374 on-base percentage in 113 games. He’s a good defender and has a ton of upside. The A’s seem intent on keeping Scott Sizemore at the hot corner, but I can’t imagine them turning down a potentially decent upgrade if given the chance at one.

Bailey has also garnered interest from the Angels, Mets, Rangers, Mariners and Reds.

Melvin talks rumors and more

Manager Bob Melvin met with media at the Winter Meetings in Dallas on Monday evening, fielding a variety of questions that touched upon his roster and coaching staff, along with the rumors surrounding his club. Certainly there have been plenty, notably in regards to All-Star pitchers Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill.

“I start to twitch a bit when you hear that,” Melvin said. “In our market and the way we have to do business, you can’t say that nobody’s untouchable. You have to be open to the fact that if you can improve your club, whether it’s short-term or long-term, you have to look at all those options. We have a lot of pitching. Whenever you have a lot of something, you know that there’s going to be a lot of interest in that. It’s only natural that there is a lot of gossip going on as far as our pitching.”

On managing a team with an unclear future: “You have to concentrate on the players that you have here. I like the guys that we have. Certainly we have a lot of pitching, and when you have a lot of pitching, you know it’s going to keep you in games. We’ll see how it all comes out come Spring Training.”

On the stadium situation: “If you’re part of it for as many years as Billy has been, certainly it gets frustrating. A lot’s been written and we’re getting to a point now where it seems like maybe a decision is looming sooner than later, I can see where there would be some frustration in not knowing when you’re trying to put together your team and not in the biggest market in the world to start with. And having some of those questions out there that do pertain to what you’re trying to do, it can be frustrating.”

On the possibility of Michael Taylor being ready to step into an everyday role: “I don’t think you’re going to find out what you need to find out about a player like that unless you do give him the opportunity. A lot of times you hear Spring Training not being the ideal place to do that. Well, that’s just the position that we’re in. This Spring Training, sitting where we are right now, we’re going to have to do a lot of evaluating.”

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.”

Greetings from the Winter Meetings

DALLAS — Baseball’s Hot Stove scene has officially descended upon the Hilton Anatole here in Dallas, though the A’s are generating little buzz, at least for now. Expect the rumors surrounding trade bait Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey to escalate in the coming days, with Bailey the more likely of the two to be dealt sooner than later. Gonzalez will have his suitors, no doubt, but the A’s will surely allow time to make a competition out of, given their asking price — think another club’s top prospect and then some — is extremely high. The A’s are looking to net a good dose of power in return, at essentially every power spot: first base, third base and all outfield slots — positions which are far from set for next season.

As for the free-agent market, it’s pretty clear that the A’s are buying time, not players, right now. The seemingly neverending wait for a stadium decision has the club on a spending hold, meaning any new additions in the coming weeks are likely to be had by way of trade rather than free agents. Familiar face Josh Willingham is garnering plenty interest here, and I’d suspect his name to be wiped off the board soon. Coco Crisp, meanwhile, seems to still be a good fit for the Giants, with the Tigers also reportedly being a possibility despite the outfielder’s preference to remain on the West Coast. Meanwhile, Hideki Matsui’s camp is remaining quiet, and although his return seems unlikely at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out. 

I’ll have updates from both manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane following their media sessions this evening, so stay tuned…