OAKLAND -- The A's will take their search for a center fielder to the Winter Meetings next week, but potential additions could ultimately be overshadowed by potential subtractions.
"I think we're listening more than anything," general manager David Forst said this week. "We have a strong foundation here, and it's centered around our starting pitching. There's a good, young group of starters that we're going to build on, there's a good base in our bullpen, and ultimately the position players are hopefully going to grow with that group.
"There is sort of a formula here for this team to grow together, and I think we're looking to be patient with that process, but also listen to what opportunities may be out there. There's always a lot of trade conversations leading up to and at the Winter Meetings, and I don't expect that will be any different this year."
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MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 6 a.m. PT.
Outfield: Even after the signing of Matt Joyce, the A's remain on the lookout for outfield help, and not just an everyday center fielder. Forst alluded to maintaining the club's search to upgrade the current corner-outfield mix.
Veteran starter: The A's have an abundance of starting pitching depth, but it's a largely young group that could do well by a veteran presence, a la Rich Hill in 2016 -- at least for a few months -- and Scott Kazmir in '14 and part of '15. The A's have a track record of finding such gems, and they're always on the lookout for another.
Who they can trade if necessary
RHP Sonny Gray: Gray has been a popular subject among trade talks for more than a year, and his services are especially desired among teams sorting through a weak starting pitching market, meaning the A's could ultimately be faced with a deal they can't turn down. Or, they can simply choose to hang on to the right-hander and revisit talks ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline next summer.
C Stephen Vogt: The game is dealing with a dearth of catching talent, making Vogt a prime trade target for clubs in need of help behind the plate. The A's have the depth to withstand the potential loss of Vogt, with Josh Phegley and Bruce Maxwell on hand to form a platoon, but his clubhouse presence cannot be overstated. Vogt's bat also draws attention, while his defense might be cause for hesitation.
INF Jed Lowrie: Young infielder Joey Wendle greatly impressed at second base upon his promotion late last season, enough to warrant consideration for the everyday job moving forward. Just how much confidence the A's have in him, though, will impact their decision on the veteran Lowrie, who is potentially expendable if they want to stick with Wendle.
Relievers: The A's could toy with the idea of trading one of their three prime relievers: veteran right-handers Ryan Madson and John Axford and left-hander Sean Doolittle could all bring about calls, and the A's could seemingly get a decent return for any one of them, considering the widespread focus on building great bullpens.
Rule 5 Draft
The A's 40-man roster is full, so they would need to clear a space before the Rule 5 Draft to accommodate an additional player. However, they could potentially lose at least one: among dozens in their system left unprotected are right-hander Dylan Covey, the club's No. 20 prospect who missed most of 2016 with an oblique injury, and right-hander Tucker Healy, who racked up 76 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings for Triple-A this year.
Big contracts they might unload
The A's already unloaded Billy Butler, but not his contract. They still owe the veteran designated hitter $10 million, which will likely be more than they pay any player that's actually on their 40-man roster. Next in line, currently: Madson, who will take home $7.66 million.
The A's have already committed more than $30 million to their 2016 roster, not including the roughly $20 million owed to their arbitration-eligible players and additional salaries for the remainder of their roster. The club finished the '16 campaign with a payroll just north of $87 million, and it's unlikely its '17 total surpasses that.