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Inbox: Could the A's have kept McCarthy?

When are the A's going to sign a shortstop? Who are the options at this point?
-- Peter G., Oakdale, Calif.

The A's are in no rush to complete a deal for a shortstop, and I wouldn't be surprised if they waited until January to do so. Stephen Drew remains their top target, but several other teams view him in the same light as well, so Drew's camp -- namely super-agent Scott Boras -- can also play the waiting game while fielding different offers.

It's not clear what type of offers he's getting at this point, but I suspect that he'll make close to $10 million in 2013 -- a sum that equals the option for next season that he and the A's mutually declined. Drew could make even more, it seems, when looking around the league at all of the hefty contracts being handed out this winter, combined with the fact that he's the undisputed prize in a slim shortstop market.

Any hangup in a deal for Drew would seemingly revolve around years. The A's are likely looking to sign him for only one -- maybe two, tops -- and could ultimately be outbid by a club wanting a lengthier relationship with him. Should that happen, the A's could revisit talks with Japanese free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima or hunt down a trade partner. Just don't count on the latter being Cleveland anymore, as the Indians' decision to deal Shin-Soo Choo lessens their chances of trading Asdrubal Cabrera.

Did the A's even make an offer to Brandon McCarthy? It seems like they could have had him for a similar contract.
-- Brandon B., Fresno, Calif.

First of all, the contract McCarthy signed with the D-backs -- two years for $15.5 million -- is a great one and well-deserved. But while it may be one the A's could have matched in price, it's not one they really needed to take on, what with an abundance of mostly young pitchers already filling their roster. Moreover, McCarthy probably became even more expendable when Bartolo Colon was brought on board again for just $3 million.

I have no doubt the A's would have loved to bring back McCarthy, and I'm sure McCarthy would've been more than on board with returning as well, but in the end I'm told they did not make him an offer, and you can't blame him for jumping on a two-year deal, when most other interested clubs were probably only willing to give him one, given his extensive injury history.

How do you see the A's rotation lining up for Opening Day? If Dan Straily doesn't make it, would they consider putting him in the bullpen until they need another starter?
-- Paul W., Seattle

While plenty of other clubs are still trying to fill holes in their rotations, the A's have a surplus of arms battling for the five in theirs. Still, their starting five come Opening Day seems rather predictable at this point, with Brett Anderson leading the way at the front of the rotation, followed by Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Griffin. Obviously that could easily change, depending on how each get through camp physically, but that's the way I see it for now.

Straily, I'd think, would be the logical choice to start in place of any of those five in the event that becomes necessary, and I'd also keep on eye on prospect Sonny Gray during camp, too. Both are likely to garner big league time at some point in 2013, and I don't expect it will come in the bullpen for either. The A's value them too much as starters to mess around with them in other roles, particularly since both are still developing.

Now that Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge and Brandon McCarthy are all gone, who is going to be the ringleader of this clubhouse? I still think the A's should have kept one of them.
-- Stephen F., San Jose, Calif.

From a media standpoint, I can't say enough about how much each of these three will be missed, and I'm sure those feelings are felt substantially more by their teammates. Yet each of them understands the business aspect of this game, especially being in Oakland, where turnover is rampant, and will move on in keeping intact the chemistry that fueled their 2012 campaign.

Though still young, Josh Reddick stands to develop his place as a leader in that clubhouse next year -- he learned from the best in locker neighbor Gomes -- and I also see Grant Balfour taking on a bigger role in that regard as well. Moreover, I've heard nothing but great things about newbie Chris Young, who seems like the type of guy to whom everyone gravitates.

What's going to happen with Dallas Braden? I can't picture him ever wearing another uniform than an A's one.
-- Rick C., San Francisco

Braden, recovering from rotator-cuff surgery, isn't expected to be ready to pitch again until sometime around the All-Star break next year. As a result, I don't see him signing with anyone any time soon, but I also wouldn't rule out Oakland giving him a Minor League contract. It would be nice to see him remain in the A's organization, but I could also see him potentially wanting a change of scenery.

Oakland Athletics, Grant Balfour, Dallas Braden, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy, Josh Reddick, Chris Young