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Meetings help A's position in quest for shortstop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The A's left the Winter Meetings without a shortstop on Thursday, but headed back to Oakland with a better idea of the market for one.

"Obviously the shortstop thing is ongoing," said Farhan Zaidi, A's director of baseball operations. "I think we've kind of made some progress on a few fronts, but part of the thing with these Meetings is it's fairly seamless in terms of transferring the progress made here to when you go back home."

It's there where the A's will restart discussions about options that could fulfill their need of a player that will share the left side of the infield with third baseman Josh Donaldson. Oakland is set elsewhere. Scott Sizemore is set to assume second-base duties, while Brandon Moss and Chris Carter will platoon at first base.

On the first day of the Winter Meetings, general manager Billy Beane identified Stephen Drew and Hiroyuki Nakajima as the club's top targets in the free-agent market. Drew's agent, Scott Boras, was set to meet with Beane before departing, with several other clubs interested in the shortstop.

Those same teams could potentially offer Drew more years than the A's, who have payroll flexibility but aren't willing to promise more than two years to a player with 2012 first-round Draft pick Addison Russell waiting in the wings at the position. That could also present problems in negotiations with Nakajima, who is also believed to still be talking to Arizona.

The A's have also stayed busy in trade talks, evident in their four days spent in Nashville, where they involved themselves in discussions with the Marlins for Yunel Escobar and the Indians for Asdrubal Cabrera. Escobar proved to not be a fit for Oakland, while a deal for Cabrera likely commanded too much with the Indians targeting starting pitchers and outfielders the A's are unwilling to part with.

"There are some dominoes that could fall elsewhere that could shrink our pool or expand it, and we're aware of that," Zaidi said. "It's kind of a balancing act, knowing when to strike and when an option might fall off the table, or waiting around to see if an option might become available. We're kind of in that balancing act right now. As long as we have options and some internal understanding of where they rank for us, we can be patient."

Deals done: None

Rule 5 Draft activity: Despite leaving right-handed pitcher James Simmons unprotected, the A's did not lose him or any other player in the Major League portion. As expected, with their 40-man roster already full, they also didn't select anyone.

Oakland didn't go home empty handed, though, plucking infielder Thomas Mendonca from the Rangers' Double-A roster in the Triple-A phase and catcher Steven Hill from the Cardinals. Mendonca, 24 and equipped with power, is from Turlock, Calif., and attended Fresno State University, from where he was drafted by Texas in the second round of the 2009 Draft. The Rangers tried him at catcher this year but the A's plan to utilize him strictly at the corner infield spots.

In the same phase, the A's lost Class A Stockton infielder Michael Gilmartin to the Reds, while the Tigers took away Double-A outfielder Eliezer Mesa, who was the player to be named in the Mark Ellis deal with the Rockies.

Goals accomplished: It would seem like few were, considering the A's didn't contribute to the transaction wire in Nashville, yet they don't see it that way, having made traction in their search for an everyday shortstop. So while they depart the Winter Meetings with the same roster intact, they also leave them equipped with a deeper knowledge of the market.

Unfinished business: Oakland's small shopping list remains unchanged, as the A's brass heads home without a shortstop in tow. Acquiring one will remain their focus as the winter progresses, with the rest of their roster largely set.

Team's bottom line: "There is no urgency, because it's not like when we go back home we're mailing letters to each other. Business happens just as easily. I think we were able to lay some groundwork." -- Zaidi

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
Read More: Oakland Athletics, Brandon Moss, Scott Sizemore, Chris Carter, Josh Donaldson