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Gray spurs early interest at Winter Meetings

A's eyeing impact center fielder to fortify outfield
MLB.com @JaneMLB

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- A late-arriving group of A's front-office executives descended upon the Winter Meetings early Monday evening, their presence preceded by more rumors surrounding their ace.

Right-hander Sonny Gray made for plenty of fodder within the confines of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center during the day, and that will likely hold true for the remainder of the week here.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- A late-arriving group of A's front-office executives descended upon the Winter Meetings early Monday evening, their presence preceded by more rumors surrounding their ace.

Right-hander Sonny Gray made for plenty of fodder within the confines of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center during the day, and that will likely hold true for the remainder of the week here.

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Gray would be a great get for clubs striking out in a weak free-agent class, but he won't come cheap. The Braves reportedly made a run at the pitcher but found his price to be too high, despite the A's never asking for young phenom Dansby Swanson in a return package.

Swanson, a shortstop, doesn't fit the A's needs -- Marcus Semien will be back at shortstop while the organization awaits the arrival of top prospect Franklin Barreto -- but the Braves have a pair of center fielders that would seemingly be attractive to the outfield-needy A's: Ender Inciarte would be the first choice, followed by Mallex Smith.

Video: 2016 MLB Awards: Best Play, Defense - Inciarte

Inciarte, though, is considered nearly off-limits. Smith, a 24-year-old speedster, is a lesser-known quantity, but there's potential for him to be an impact leadoff bat while providing solid defense in center field. Still, the Braves don't appear willing to strike a deal, at least not now.

Another potential trade target who has similar assets: Kansas City's Jarrod Dyson. Fast and affordable, the 32-year-old Dyson is seemingly expendable and could add life to the top of the A's lineup. The left-handed batter hit .278 with a .340 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases in 107 games last season. Dyson's teammate, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who is owed $6.5 million in 2017 and $11 million in '18, is also considered available.

The A's and Royals have a history of making trades; in July, one year after Oakland acquired pitchers Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks from Kansas City in exchange for infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist, the clubs swapped outfielders, with the A's getting Brett Eibner, while giving away Billy Burns.

Several other players could potentially be good matches for the A's, but a bevy of center fielders are considered unavailable via trade, including the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier and A.J. Pollock of the D-backs.

The A's are also scouring free-agent options, but the list figures to be limited because of available resources. This probably precludes them from the likes of Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler, instead bringing into focus other names such as Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, Colby Rasmus and Will Venable. Carlos Gomez is also available, but he requires more money and, subsequently, more risk.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Davis ties game with clutch two-run homer

Oakland added corner outfielder Matt Joyce on a two-year, $11 million deal last week, helping to stabilize an A's outfield that already includes left fielder Khris Davis. But center field is lacking, though one of their current in-house options -- Jake Smolinski and Eibner -- could potentially form a platoon with a left-handed bat acquisition.

A's general manager David Forst was not expected to meet with the media at the Winter Meetings until Tuesday night, but he said last week of their search for a center fielder, "We're definitely still looking for opportunities and options. Whether that's trade or free agency, I don't know, but that's something that we're actively doing, so we'll see if we're able to do that.

"We know we need to improve our defense in every area. We're obviously looking for guys who can go and catch the ball, we need to improve the lineup and the ability to get on base, but I can't tell you that all of those things are available in one player that's going to be available to us, but we're looking for what you would expect out of a center fielder."

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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