December 2012

A’s one of many clubs in on Drew

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It would seem that two meetings in as many days between A’s general manager Billy Beane and super agent Scott Boras in the confines of the Winter Meetings would be significant.

Maybe so, if they hadn’t occurred at the gym.

Boras, who represents free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, was simply “dodging medicine balls” in his run-ins with Beane, who assured that the pair would engage in a formal meeting by the time he leaves Nashville on Thursday morning.

That means Drew is still on Oakland’s radar. Yet several other clubs can say the same about the infielder, who is primed for a generous deal, much thanks to the slim shortstop market that houses him.

Boras deemed the market for Drew “ever-growing” and said, “I think he’s looked at as the shortstop in this market, so there are a number of clubs that have looked at him both for their current needs and for teams that may be making trades as well.”

The A’s are expected to depart the Winter Meetings without a peep, transferring their work back to Oakland having not made a deal. However, free-agent Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima is believed to still be in the mix, as are other options.

“We’ve explored some trade possibilities and opted not to pursue some of those, and there are still some available to us,” Beane said. “We’re still dealing with several different options and, to be honest, with no sense of urgency.”

Such remarks allude to Yunel Escobar, who was taken off the board Tuesday, seemingly even before he was traded to the Rays.

A’s ink seven to Minor League deals

A handful of Minor League signings by the A’s have mostly gone unnoticed this winter. Here’s a list of them:

RHPs Mike Ekstrom, Kyler Newby; LHPs Justin Thomas, Garrett Olson; C Luke Montz; INFs Scott Moore, Darwin Perez

There will likely be plenty more additions before the start of camp, and it’s worth keeping an eye on each of them. After all, it was only last winter the A’s signed Brandon Moss to a Minor League deal.

A’s to meet with agent for Nakajima

NASHVILLE, TENN. — According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, A’s officials are slated to meet with the agent for free-agent Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima in Nashville today. It’s an intriguing option for the A’s, who are among several teams scouring a shallow shortstop market — most of which boast bigger payrolls than Oakland, ones that could help land Stephen Drew. The A’s are not out on Drew, but let’s take a look at the lesser known Nakajima:

The 30-year-old shortstop was in negotiations with the Yankees last winter, after New York won posting rights to him. But the Yankees failed to sign Nakajima, who wasn’t so much interested in salary figures as he was playing time, which wasn’t offered to him on an everyday basis — factors that figure to be in play this time around, too. The A’s are likely willing to promise him just that, with utility infielders Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino their only other in-house options at this point.

Nakajima enjoyed a successful 2012 campaign with the Seibu Lions in Japan, where he finished with a line of.311/.382/.451, to go along with 13 home runs. Since 2007, the infielder has averaged 20.5 homers per 162 games, along with a .310 average and .381 on-base percentage. Furthermore, he boasts above-average defensive skills.

Nakajima, who represented Japan at the 2008 Olympics and in the ’09 World Baseball Classic, already met with D-backs officials — also shopping for infield help on the left side — in Arizona in November, though a deal was reportedly never on the table. The D-backs, however, are believed to still be interested in him.

The A’s, meanwhile, figure to be keeping all of their options open, particularly since they’re in no hurry to make a move, and that includes both the free-agent and trade markets.

A’s eyeing multiple shortstop options

NASHVILLE — Oakland’s shopping list was of no mystery heading into the Winter Meetings, yet how the club may go about obtaining its contents was.

A’s general manager Billy Beane, speaking from his suite at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort on Day 1 of the four-day event, shed some light on the matter Monday, making it clear his top options at shortstop, which remains the team’s most dire and only true need. Their current in-house options are Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino, and Beane has no intentions of adding prospects Grant Green or Addison Russell to that mix.

Stephen Drew, with whom the A’s familiarized themselves well down the stretch, and Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima are the two free agent shortstops the team is considering at the moment. On the trade front, rumblings of the Marlins nearing a deal involving shortstop Yunel Escobar emerged, and the A’s could very well be in the mix.

MLB.com learned Beane met with Marlins officials on Monday, though it’s unclear whether he did so to discuss Escobar, who is only owed $5 million in 2013. The 30-year-old is equipped with plenty defensive talent and has a likeable .353 career on-base percentage, factors that make him an attractive option despite his checkered past, which includes an incident involving a homophobic slur written on his eye black.

But should the Marlins turn to a trade partner not named the A’s when dealing Escobar, believed to be on his way out of Florida by week’s end, Oakland will feel no added urgency to move on other options.

“I think we’re in a pretty good place to sit back and wait,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I know we’re really not market makers, at least in the free agent market, that we’ll sit back and see where the market’s going and then kind of pick and choose. There are some places we’re looking to upgrade, but we’re not in a rush to make a deal we’re not ready to make.”

Drew, whose $10 million mutual option was declined by the A’s, will surely garner significant interest from multiple clubs, given the weak shortstop crowd filling an uninspiring free agent market. That may leave him out of the A’s price range, but that doesn’t mean Oakland won’t try for him, and Beane was set to meet with his agent, Scott Boras, “sooner than later” this week.

As for the 30-year-old Nakajima, who was posted last year but ultimately didn’t sign with the Yankees, Melvin acknowledged that the club knows “quite a bit about him” and have engaged in talks about the free agent, whom he said “looks like a hitter.”

The free-agent route may very well be the way to go for the A’s, who are not willing to part with any of their starting pitchers — a declaration that could rule out a trade with the Indians that would send shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to Oakland.  

The pitching-heavy A’s appear to be more than set with arms, despite the club’s desire to bring back right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who is expected to garner more money elsewhere.

“There’s been contact,” Beane said. “There’s still a lot of the winter left, but I wouldn’t say something’s imminent. I would speculate, given his talents and the lack of starting pitching out there, that he’s going to be attractive to quite a few teams.”

 “I think that door is always open until it’s closed,” Melvin added. “We’ll probably sit back and see what kind of offers he gets and whether or not we’re able to afford him, what the guaranteed money is, what the incentives are in his deal, which I’m sure will be somewhat incentive-laden.  But that door is not closed.”

Beane has often left the Winter Meetings having not pulled the trigger on a single move, instead laying the foundation for deals in the weeks ahead. That could very well be the case this year, too, with an additional two months still to be had in the offseason.

“I don’t think these meetings create any sense of urgency from our standpoint, because we still think there are quite a few potential options out there, whether it be trade or free agent or in-house,” he said. “[Shortstop] is a critical position, and for us we have a chance to significantly improve your club if you get the right guy. We had a few guys in and out of the position last year, so if you get the right guy, it’s an area you can make a big jump on your club.”  

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