A day after finishing the 2015 season with 94 losses and the worst record in the American League, the A’s on Monday announced promotions for their top front-office executives, naming general manager Billy Beane their executive vice president of baseball operations and promoting David Forst to general manager from assistant GM.
The restructuring echoes that of other major-league teams in recent seasons, including the Giants earlier this year, and is not expected to greatly change the day-to-day operations of the A’s front office. Beane said the move is a “well-deserved recognition” for Forst, who has been with the team 16 seasons, including 12 as assistant general manager, and has turned down multiple offers for front-office jobs with other teams.
“No. 1, we don’t want to lose (Forst), because he’s quite frankly one of the most valuable people in the organization,” Beane said. “This (restructuring) sort of makes public how we’ve been operating. David has a lot of autonomy. He had it before, he’ll continue to have it.”
Beane said he hopes the new structure will allow him to be more involved in scouting, which he called the “grass-roots of the business.” He said scouting and player development will be “critical” areas for the A’s in coming seasons.
The A’s, 68-94 this season, dealt several key players for younger prospects at the trade deadline – moves Beane said at the time were geared toward creating a group of young players to form a core for future seasons. He reiterated that idea during Monday’s end-of-season media conference, pointing to this year’s Houston Astros as an example of what it will take to compete in the American League West in the coming years.
“Houston’s going to be good for a long time, and they’re going to have the revenues to be able to keep that group together,” Beane said. “We’re going to have to do the same thing – we’re going to have to create a group of young players that’s going to be here for a number of years.”
Beane said the A’s have a crop of prospects at Double-A Midland and Single-A Stockton “we think are very good,” and the more advanced players could start appearing in the majors “over the course of probably the next year.” However, the A’s don’t want to rush those players just to fill a hole at the major-league roster if they’re not ready.
That leaves the question of whether the A’s, who reached three consecutive postseasons before this year’s last-place finish, can be competitive in 2016. Despite their record, the A’s are encouraged by breakout seasons from Billy Burns and Mark Canha, rookies who became as everyday players, and strong years from starter Sonny Gray and right fielder Josh Reddick.
Gray anchored a rotation that was decimated by injuries, and manager Bob Melvin said starting pitching is an offseason priority, along with shoring up a bullpen that had the A.L.’s highest ERA and factored heavily into their poor record in one-run games. The A’s also hope to have healthy seasons from closer Sean Doolittle and outfielder Coco Crisp after both missed significant portions of 2015. Melvin said he expects the A’s to have another busy offseason.
“Basically the last couple months was all about finding who was going forward with us,” Melvin said. “We feel like we have some significant pieces, and with a few moves could probably bridge it pretty quickly in my opinion.”
Beane said Reddick, like Gray, could be a “center-piece guy” in “what we’re trying to do in the next couple years.” Beane didn’t give a more specific timetable for the A’s, though he said it’s likely “not realistic” to expect their top young prospects will be playing in the majors on Opening Day.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Beane said. “How long it takes, I can’t predict.”