OAKLAND A's manager Bob Melvin, asked about his offseason plans Friday, said he hadn't even thought about them. The end of his team's surprising season the night before was still fresh, making Friday "a pretty empty day."
"I didn't plan on spending my day like this," Melvin said as clubhouse attendants loaded belongings into boxes outside his office. "Actually, it never even crossed my mind."
The A's became a confident young bunch while bucking outside predictions to win 94 games and the American League West. And general manager Billy Beane said Friday he expects most of the team to return next season.
"The satisfying thing about the crowd response to this team last night was that they're going to get to see this same team by and large next year," Beane said a day after the A's fell to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. "If there's moves made, the idea would be additions.
"I've had situations where we had great seasons and I knew the team was not going to be back by virtue of free agency, things like that. (We will) try and continue the momentum in the winter. We should be able to build on this for next year."
While much of the team is under contract for 2013, the A's will have some decisions to make during the winter.
Outfielder Jonny Gomes became a central figure in the clubhouse while hitting .262 with 18 home runs in 99 games. He is due to become a free agent, but Melvin and Beane indicated they would like to have Gomes back, and Melvin termed it a "work in progress." Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is another potential free agent.
Shortstop Stephen Drew and the A's have a reported $10 million mutual option for next year that, if not exercised, will make Drew a free agent.
The A's also hold an option for next year on Grant Balfour, who led the team with 24 saves, and Beane said bringing back Balfour would seem to be "common sense."
The A's could have a handful of choices at third and second base. Beane and Melvin were impressed with Josh Donaldson's play at third down the stretch, while Cliff Pennington, a natural shortstop, made a smooth transition to second base with Drew in the mix. If Scott Sizemore returns healthy from the season-ending knee injury he suffered in spring training, he gives the A's another option at both third and second.
The A's also have Jemile Weeks as a potential option. Beane, though, said, "The fact of the matter is that the guys in the pole positions for playing time (next year) are the guys you saw last night."
Beane said the A's will improve simply by virtue of another year of experience. Three of the A's starting pitchers in the postseason Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin were rookies who won a combined 33 games during the regular season. Other rookies were catcher Derek Norris and their lone All-Star, reliever Ryan Cook.
So was Yoenis Cespedes, who finished his first major league season hitting .292 with 23 homers in 129 games. After an initially rocky move from center field to left, Cespedes settled into the corner position and played "outstanding," Beane said.
Melvin said the chemistry fostered in the A's clubhouse during their second-half surge can survive the offseason as well.
"The pieces are here to carry this forward, and the expectations should be higher next year because of it," he said.
The A's traded their top three pitchers from 2011, leading to perceptions of a rebuilding year in Oakland, but they won the second-most games in the A.L.
They played the ALDS with a roster that included 12 rookies and 10 players who were in Triple-A earlier in the season.
"I think really the strength of the organization showed up based on how many guys we did end up using," Melvin said.
Beane described the season as "arguably the most enjoyable year I've had."
And he and Melvin complimented the fans in Oakland who turned out in loud numbers in recent weeks and gave the A's a standing ovation after their loss to the Tigers on Thursday.
"We've had some good ones over the years, but that was pretty special," Beane said. "Despite being disappointed everyone was disappointed in the loss I think there was a real sense of understanding of what these guys had done. They had sort of won their hearts."