A's leave Winter Meetings with perspective, new pitcher

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The activity was rather subdued for the A’s, and most teams for that matter, during the Winter Meetings. However, that’s not to say that they did not get some productive work done over the past few days.

Oakland's front office contingent, led by general manager David Forst, departed the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon, heading back home without having added to their roster outside of a Rule 5 Draft selection. But while no moves were made, there was groundwork laid for potential shake-ups in the coming weeks.

“It’s not sexy to say, 'We got a lot done,'” Forst said. “Frankly, [no clubs] consummated too much while we were here. But I feel like we can go back to the office next week and figure out where we’re headed because of the conversations we had here.”

1. Starting pitcher: The A’s would like to add a proven veteran-type starter who can provide mentorship and stability for a young and inexperienced staff that struggled to find consistency last season. Left-hander Marco Gonzales was viewed as a possible trade candidate, though he was traded from the Braves to the Pirates on Tuesday, just two days after Atlanta had acquired him from the Mariners. Oakland has checked in on a possible reunion with free agent right-hander Frankie Montas, though nothing appears imminent at the moment on that front.

2. Bullpen: The A’s will need to find a new closer following the retirement of Trevor May this offseason. Forst mentioned Oakland’s top pitching prospect, Mason Miller, and Lucas Erceg as potential in-house candidates to fill that role, though he also said the club is also exploring the free-agent market for options.

The A’s held the first overall pick in Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft and selected right-hander Mitch Spence from the Yankees’ Triple-A roster. Three of Oakland’s Minor League players were selected by other clubs in the Minor League portion: Catcher William Simoneit (Phillies), right-hander Calvin Coker (Tigers) and outfielder Moises Gallardo (Nationals).

Spence, 25, posted a 4.47 ERA in 29 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2023, with 153 strikeouts and 53 walks in 163 innings. For an A’s club coming off a campaign in which it tied the Major League record for most starting pitchers in a season with 24, Spence, who enters the A’s Top 30 Prospects list by MLB Pipeline rated at No. 23, will be right in the mix for a starting job come Spring Training.

“We’re going to give him every chance to make the team,” Forst said of Spence. “He’ll come in as a starter. There’s always a chance that if he pitches well enough and there’s not a rotation spot, he ends up in the bullpen. But we’ll give him every opportunity to make the team.”

With the A’s facing lower payroll flexibility than other clubs, Forst and co. must be creative in finding ways to improve the roster. The Rule 5 Draft presents one of those opportunities. They capitalized on it last year by identifying a solid everyday first baseman in Ryan Noda with the second overall pick, and they’ll hope to strike gold again with Spence.

“Anybody who is building a roster has to look at all avenues,” Forst said. “Whether you’re a playoff team or not, all 26 spots are critical. This has been an avenue where we’ve found some everyday players. The last few that have been successful have been position players, but pitching is a need. Everyone is out there looking for starting pitching. If we have a chance to grab someone this way, we have to take advantage of it.”