Uncertainty of A's home beyond 2024 a factor in free-agent talks

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Throughout the entire A’s relocation process, general manager David Forst has tried to maintain his focus on the baseball side of things by searching for ways to improve the club's on-field product.

But as the Winter Meetings got underway on Monday -- just a couple of weeks following Major League Baseball’s approval of the A’s relocation to Las Vegas -- it became clear to Forst that any pursuit of a free agent is going to require discussions about the team’s off-the-field happenings.

The new ballpark in Nevada is not expected to be ready for play until 2028 Opening Day. As things currently stand, Oakland’s lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2024 season. The question of where the team plans to play its home games in the three years before the completion of that new stadium from 2025-27 is one that Forst said has routinely been brought up by agents when discussing multiyear free-agent deals. It’s also a question that remains unanswered at this time.

“We are in a unique situation,” Forst said. “We have one more year left to play in our current stadium and three years of uncertainty. All of that affects what we can and will do on the field. We feel that in all the conversations we have. … I don’t know the answer. I hope to have an answer soon, maybe later this offseason. But right now, we don’t.”

Speculation of where the A's will play home games beyond next year ranges from a lease extension at the Coliseum to potentially splitting their home schedule at sites such as Oracle Park in San Francisco and the Triple-A ballpark in Las Vegas.

While the situation is not ideal, this does not completely rule out the possibility of the A’s signing players to more than a one-year deal.

“There are agents who have said they understand that this is part of the equation,” Forst said. “It’s not ideal, but they are still interested in talking multiyear deals. There are also some [agents] who say they are more interested in just a one-year deal.”

There are plenty of areas to improve for a club that is coming off a 112-loss season. Like most teams at the Winter Meetings, the A’s are focused on adding pitching, preferably a veteran-type starter who can help lessen the load on what is a young and inexperienced staff while also providing mentorship inside the clubhouse.

Not in the running for any frontline starter on the market, the A’s instead may have to wait out the early signings before sorting out their realistic pitching targets. Trading for a veteran starter such as Marco Gonzales, whom the Braves acquired from the Mariners on Sunday night but are reportedly expected to move to another club, is another avenue they are exploring.

“This time of year, the market is peaking,” Forst said. “It’s expensive, nowhere more than starting pitching, which is something we’re out there talking about. We are trying to be patient. I think we know with what we have to spend and what we need to do, patience is probably our friend here.”

Coming off back-to-back 100-loss campaigns, the A’s are hopeful that the arrival of promising young prospects such as Zack Gelof, Lawrence Butler, Tyler Soderstrom and Mason Miller to the Major League level this past season will help them take a sizable step forward in what will be year three of a rebuild next year. But Forst also understands that an encouraging youth movement can’t be their sole reliance for improvement.

“The bottom line is we are trying to get better,” Forst said. “We need to get better. No one has had a lot of fun in the last two years. We’re trying to have as much conversation as we can within our current parameters to try and get better.”