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A's may address rotation, catcher at Meetings

December 7, 2018

OAKLAND -- More than two months into the offseason, the A's winter agenda remains the same. They seek multiple starters and a catcher, foremost, and will look to ramp up their activity during the Winter Meetings.The annual affair, this year occurring at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las

OAKLAND -- More than two months into the offseason, the A's winter agenda remains the same. They seek multiple starters and a catcher, foremost, and will look to ramp up their activity during the Winter Meetings.
The annual affair, this year occurring at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, often sparks a bustle of activity among clubs. The A's, who have been rather quiet in the weeks following their one-game playoff loss to the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game, have every reason to be busy here.
Typically prone to striking early in the offseason, the A's have done little outside of housekeeping moves, consummating a minor trade for right-hander Tanner Anderson from the Pirates. Of course, they did give contract extensions to their three leading figures -- vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst and manager Bob Melvin -- and subsequently promoted a promise of continuity.
The A's would like that to extend on the field, where they shattered expectations and put together a 97-win playoff team in 2018. But much has to be done for them to remain competitive next year, particularly when it comes to building a rotation, so the importance of the Winter Meetings will be magnified.
 Free-agent rumors
"Obviously we haven't made any transactions yet, but that's not for a lack of conversation and activity," Forst said. "Things tend to pick up on a lot of fronts when you get to the Winter Meetings, so we'll see if that is the case this year.
"We're dipping into both free agency and trade conversations equally, so I think it'll have to play out which route we go."
Club needs: Oakland does not return one pitcher from the rotation with which it ended the season. The A's could change that by bringing back one or both of Edwin Jackson and Trevor Cahill while simultaneously monitoring other players on the market. Their search will seemingly be limited to the second- and third-tier group of available pitchers, and they could also get creative and swing a deal for one; ex-Athletic Sonny Gray, who has struggled in New York, is among those publicly available. The A's also need a catcher to replace free agent Jonathan Lucroy and must decide whether to retain free-agent second baseman Jed Lowrie, who likely is seeking a multiyear deal, or explore other options as an alternate to infield prospect Franklin Barreto.

"There are conversations internally about Franklin and what is best for him going forward, but I think we're going to explore adding a second baseman, letting Franklin play, finding a platoon partner for him," Forst said. "All those things are on the table."
Hot Stove Tracker
Whom might they trade? The list is short. The A's don't have any big contracts to unload, and they aren't so keen on plucking from a newly refurbished farm system. That being said, a handful of players included among MLB Pipeline's list of Top 30 A's prospects could potentially be had in the right deal, including infielders Kevin Merrell and Sheldon Neuse, and outfielders Tyler Ramirez and Skye Bolt.
Rule 5 Draft: The A's 40-man roster sits at 36, leaving wiggle room should Oakland choose to participate in the Rule 5 Draft. Conversely, the A's stand to lose former first-round pick Richie Martin, who was left unprotected.
Payroll summary: By the end of the 2018 season, the A's payroll amounted to about $80 million. It could exceed that by the start of the 2019 campaign, but likely only minimally. Khris Davis might take home a good chunk of it, as the designated hitter is headed toward arbitration -- unless the A's can hammer out an extension with their slugger.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.