— Hours after the A’s announced their trade of Brandon Moss to Cleveland for minor-league infielder Joey Wendle, general manager Billy Beane strongly hinted the team’s activity at the Winter Meetings had only just begun.
Beane indicated the A’s are close to finalizing another deal. He did not go into specifics; however, multiple outlets are reporting the A’s are close to a deal that would send pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox, potentially for a middle infielder.
Shortstop is perhaps the A’s most glaring position of need. Beane told reporters Monday evening the A’s are specifically interested in a younger player who would be a part of the organization for several years rather than signing a veteran on a short-term deal.
“We’re willing to live with some growing pains for the long-term benefit,” Beane said.
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The player the A’s acquired Monday morning, Wendle, is a middle infielder who played primarily second base in the Indians’ minor-league system. But Beane said the A’s right now intend to start Wendle in Triple-A next season, though Beane added the A’s believe Wendle “projects as an everyday guy” in the middle infield down the road.
Beane also said a report Monday that the A’s are interested in potentially signing Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang is “inaccurate.”
The A’s do have some in-house shortstop options, and manager Bob Melvin said Monday he isn’t writing them off completely.
“Andy Parrino’s never had a legitimate chance to show what he can do at shortstop,” said Melvin. “But having said that, it is a bit of a priority for us. And I wouldn’t bet against before we get to spring training, that we do have some other options.”
▪ Fan reaction to the Moss trade on social media Monday largely questioned the move, given it sent an All-Star in Moss to the Indians for an unproven commodity. Beane was asked if that kind of reaction surprised him and said, “A little bit, yeah.” He pointed out the A’s have employed the same strategy in the past, such as when they traded three All Stars after the 2011 season and won the A.L. West in 2012, and when they sent Rich Harden to the Cubs in 2008 in a six-player trade -- which included Donaldson.
“It’s like Groundhog Day,” Beane said. “This is how it is here. I’ve said it every time that we’ve done it. We’re trying to be proactive, quite frankly.”
Beane said the A’s have consciously tried to capitalize on their opportunities to go deep into the playoffs the past three seasons (Cespedes for Lester as one example), and that at some point they also need to cover for the future.
“From a macro standpoint in the organization, we’ve spent a lot of resources, minor-league capital, on trying to give the last three years every opportunity we could,” Beane said. “Nothing was sort of sacred in terms of what wasn’t available.
“We also have to take a step back and … be cognizant of the future here as well, and give a little bit back in terms of getting some younger players. When we think we’ve got a shot, we’re going to do that, and we did. Now it’s time to think about the next few years, not just the next year.”
▪ Beane said the prognoses are good for players who were dealing with nagging injuries at the end of the 2014 season. With Coco Crisp’s neck, Beane said, “We anticipate no problems up to this point.” Josh Reddick was also dealing with a neck issue but is “doing well,” and Stephen Vogt, who underwent foot surgery after the season, is “on track.”
Both Beane and manager Bob Melvin also said that John Jaso is doing well and has been cleared to resume catching after suffering another concussion last year that caused him to miss significant time. But the issue of whether Jaso actually will return to catching, after losing time in each of the last two seasons to concussions, is uncertain.
“The doctors have cleared him, so really it’s up to him, how tenacious he wants to go about the catching position,” Melvin said. “It did happen two years in a row, which gives you a little bit of trepidation. But if Dr. (Michael) Collins is clearing him, it means he feels like he’s ready to play the position.”
▪ With Moss gone, Ike Davis slots in at first base -- or at least the left-handed half of the A’s platoon there. Davis, whom the A’s signed to a one-year deal for 2015, would likely split time with Billy Butler or another right-handed hitter at first.
Beane pointed out Davis hasn’t been as successful against left-handed pitching as Moss became late in his A’s tenure, “But still young and talented. He’s got power, and he’s a great defender at first … He’s going to predominantly play first, and he’s very good over there.”
Melvin also reiterated that Brett Lawrie, acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade, will fill Donaldson’s absence at third base. Where Lawrie will hit in the order is undetermined; Melvin said Lawrie can hit just about anywhere except cleanup.
“Health is going to be the key with him,” Melvin said, adding that Lawrie looks forward to playing home games on a grass infield rather than artificial turf, which he has said may have contributed to his injury issues in Toronto.
“Our fans are going to love him,” Melvin said. “He’s a blue-collar guy, plays hard, always dirty, he’s diving. He’s the type of guy our fan base will like right away.”
▪ As for the pitchers the A’s acquired in the Donaldson trade -- Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin -- Melvin said both could contend for a rotation spot in 2015. “Let’s see how it all plays out,” Melvin said, “but as we sit here right now, definitely.”
▪ If Samardzija is traded, the A’s will have Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir returning from the 2014 rotation, along with Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Chavez, both of whom had time in the rotation last year. They also expect to get both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin back from Tommy John surgery at some point during the season.
Beane, though, said having rotation depth is a priority.
“That helped us last year to get through the season,” Beane said. “If we didn’t have that, we would have had no chance. That’s one of the goals this offseason, is to create by the beginning of the season, potentially an eight-to-10-deep starting rotation.”
▪ Beane said he is paying attention to the Jon Lester sweepstakes, but mostly out of “industry curiosity” rather than lingering feelings from Lester’s brief A’s tenure.
“Arthur Miller being married briefly to Marilyn Monroe -- that’s who we are,” Beane said. “We’re the Arthur Miller in Lester’s career.”