Athletics sure to be busy at Winter Meetings
OAKLAND -- The A's will soon take their busy offseason agenda down south for this year's Winter Meetings in San Diego, and rampant rumors involving several of their players will surely follow them.
It's quite plausible that right-hander Jeff Samardzija and first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss are traded before general manager Billy Beane and Co. even arrive in Southern California. If not, it'll be highly speculated both will be gone shortly after.
The question is, will any potential trade net them a shortstop? It's no secret the A's need one, though finding big league talent at the position via trade won't be easy.
Beane has already added Billy Butler to his lineup this winter but subtracted Josh Donaldson through a five-player trade with the Blue Jays, leaving many wondering what direction the club is headed in this offseason.
The Winter Meetings could very well provide some of these answers.
Shortstop: This is the A's biggest must-have this winter, with incumbent Jed Lowrie hitting free agency and forecasted to go elsewhere. Few options remain internally. Andy Parrino is one, and the A's also could opt to have Nick Punto spend the majority of his time there if they're unable to bring in reinforcements. Beane has stated his search for a new shortstop won't include the free-agent market, upping the chances he trades for one.
Offense: The loss of Donaldson -- and potentially Moss -- has the club in dire need of a bat or two to join Butler in the middle of the lineup. Finding an outfielder who fits this mold would make sense for the A's, but chances are they won't enter any big bidding wars for one and they could ultimately settle on standing pat with a mix of Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld in left field, and Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick in center and right, respectively.
Organizational depth: The A's already have added to their depth through the Donaldson deal, but they're expected to continue collecting young talent to fill out their farm system, particularly in the higher ranks.
Who they can trade if necessary
Samardzija: At this point, it would be more surprising if the A's didn't trade Samardzija than if they did, though there's always the off chance they hang onto him and wait for a greater return at the Trade Deadline in July. However, for clubs out on the big-name free agents roaming the market -- think Jon Lester and Max Scherzer -- Samardzija is perhaps the most enticing right-handed trade option this winter, making it likely that a trade gets done.
Moss: The late-blossoming slugger became expendable when the A's brought in Butler and Ike Davis as first-base options. Moreover, Stephen Vogt and Nate Freiman can play the crowded position, too. The A's already are gearing up to pay Butler $10 million in each of the next three seasons, and Moss' expected $7 million arbitration salary could very well be shed from payroll and allocated elsewhere.
C/DH John Jaso: Beane has long been a Jaso fan, but it's hard to see where exactly Jaso fits in the A's puzzle next season, particularly if the club doesn't don't feel comfortable having Jaso catch after one too many concussions. Even if the A's did, they already have a Derek Norris /Vogt platoon in place. Initially, it was assumed Jaso would spend much of his time at designated hitter, but that was before Butler came on board. First base was considered another option for him, but the A's already have many options at the position.
The A's Top 10 prospects, per MLB.com, are shortstop Daniel Robertson, first baseman Matt Olson, shortstop Franklin Barreto, third baseman Renato Nunez, third baseman Matt Chapman, left-hander Dillon Overton, second baseman Chad Pinder, right-hander Raul Alcantara, left-hander Sean Nolin and right-hander Seth Streich.
The A's typically are considered among the best at stocking up on pitching, but the fact that most others recognized on this Top 10 list are infielders greatly reflects the club's focus to restore depth at these positions.
None of them are considered trade bait, since the A's so clearly intend to gain more prospects rather than lose them.
Rule 5 Draft
The A's 40-man roster is currently full, so they're not in position to make any picks in the Major League Phase of the Draft.
Big contracts they might unload
"Big" is a relative term for the small-market A's, who have already unloaded Donaldson and his four years of arbitration, which would've cost them approximately $40 million. Moss also is in position for a decent raise this season and next, but it's Samardzija who would save the A's the most in payroll, with the right-hander projected to reel in close to $10 million in arbitration for the 2015 season.
Lefty Scott Kazmir and Crisp are both owed $11 million in 2015, with Butler set to take home $10 million and reliever Eric O'Flaherty $5.5 million. Those four own the largest contracts, amounting to nearly $40 million of the club's total payroll. An additional $40 million is set aside for the club's arbitration-eligible players, though that number remains fluid so long as Samardzija and Moss remain on the trading block. Together, they would make more than $15 million next year, and their fate will largely determine where the club's payroll sits next season.