The A’s certainly have a need to fill as they prepare for the annual winter meetings that begin Monday.
However, their agenda over the four-day event in Washington, D.C. could go any number of directions, and that lends an element of the unknown.
Two winters ago, they clearly had ambitions to trade Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss as part of a grander roster overhaul. Both players indeed got dealt at the winter meetings. Last year, it was no secret they were looking to unload infielder Brett Lawrie, and he was shipped to the White Sox the night before the meetings wrapped.
This winter, the A’s most pressing need is an everyday center fielder. They’ve said they’ll explore free agency and trades to fill that void. But with the prevailing logic that the A’s might be a couple years from seriously contending again in the American League West, how seriously could they consider dealing front-line pieces such as starter Sonny Gray or catcher Stephen Vogt? They’re showing at least a willingness to listen on both players along with other veterans.
All general manager David Forst guarantees is that the A’s are keeping every option open.
“I don’t really know what conversations are going to come up,” Forst said earlier this week. “We’ve made major additions, we’ve made big trades in the past. Those things are always a possibility. We’re going to be opportunistic depending on how things go the next month or so.”
The A’s have also stayed quiet during past winter meetings, laying the groundwork for moves behind closed doors, only to strike shortly after the event wraps.
At the heart of any moves Oakland considers must be this question: How aggressive do they want to be making upgrades for 2017, given they’ve got a young core of up-and-coming talent in place that would suggest patience is the best route?
The A’s have a solid base of young starting pitching — some of it has appeared in the majors already, some of it’s getting close and some is at least a couple years away. There are also some promising position-player prospects that are knocking on the door of being potential contributors.
Given the gradual cut-off of revenue-sharing money heading the A’s way as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it’s hard to see them throwing big dollars at free agents until they’ve got a plan for a new ballpark. Trading away top prospects to bring in a big-name player also seems to run counter to their big-picture outlook.
But to hear Forst tell it, the A’s will keep an open mind to all possibilities.
“We’re listening more than anything,” Forst said. “We have a strong foundation here, and it’s centered around our starting pitching. There’s a good young group of starters we’re gonna build on. We have a good base in the bullpen that was one of our strengths last year, and ultimately the position players are hopefully going to grow with that group. …
“Guys like (prospects Franklin) Barreto and (Matt) Chapman are coming at some point. There’s kind of a formula for this team to grow together. I think we’re looking to be patient with that process but also listen to what opportunities that may be out there. There’s always a lot of trade conversations leading up to and at the winter meetings. I don’t expect that will be any different this year.”