Urban: Quiet meetings don't mean A's offseason over

December 9, 2010, 12:54 am
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Dec. 8, 2010URBAN ARCHIVEA'S PAGE A'S VIDEOMychael Urban

LAKE BUENTA VISTA, Fla. -- A's assistant general manager David Forst was in an unenviable spot Tuesday and Wednesday at baseball's annual winter meetings.His boss, Oakland GM Billy Beane, is a master at saying very little in such an entertaining manner that is seems like he's saying quite a bit. Forst, while a fine prospective heir to Beane and a respected baseball man, either hasn't quite developed that particular skill or simply doesn't have the patience andor inclination to try to make something of nothing.So Forst, who's handling Beane's media responsibilities in the wake of the GM's Tuesday-morning departure from the meetings (for personal reasons), on Wednesday told it like it is and didn't bother to dress it up with the cultural references and irreverent humor favored by Beane.The A's haven't really done jack here outside of what baseball folks who haven't done jack like to call information-gathering, and Forst said as much.'We feel like we've learned a lot,' he offered said Wednesday night during an exceptionally short de-briefing with Bay Area writers in the team's hotel suite. 'Just because you're not going to complete or announce anything here doesn't mean it hasn't been productive.'So the to-do list that the A's brought to central Florida doesn't have a single item crossed off. They still need power, and in the wake of their failure to sign Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma before Monday's midnight deadline, they still need more options for the fifth spot in their starting rotation.
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Without saying the actual words, though, Forst seemed to send a message to A's fans frustrated by the lack of tangible action. Wednesday was Dec. 8, spring training is more than two months away, and the free-agent market -- Oakland's preferred method of doing business this winter -- figures to settle and set itself within the next several weeks.'I'm confident we will add players,' Forst said. 'We're committed to making upgrades, and I think we will.'With Daric Barton's status as Oakland's starting first baseman having been cemented by Forst's comment on the situation Tuesday, certainly one of the upgrades will come at designated hitter. The top target there is free agent Hideki Matsui, and his options dwindled by one Wednesday when Jack Cust -- Oakland's primary DH for the past four seasons -- signed with the Mariners.NEWS: SOURCE: Mariners reach 1-year deal with Cust
The A's met with Matsui's agent early this week, and he seems open to coming to Oakland because they appear to fit his reported criteria: regular playing time and playing for a legitimate contender.Are the A's really a contender? With Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden fronting the rotation, a bullpen that might feature two legitimate closer types in Andrew Bailey and Joey Devine, and a punched-up offense, many in baseball think they can be.Adding another top offseason target, free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, certainly would help on the latter front. Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, suggested that ia deal remains a possibility Wednesday despite of reports that the A's recently withdrew their reported five-year, 64 million offer.'The door's not closed there,' Boras said while holding court before a pack of 30 or so reporters in a hotel hallway. Forst, sticking to the team's policy of silence regarding free agents, didn't bite when asked if the A's have ever put an offer back on the table after withdrawing it.'You're asking about a specific player and a specific situation,' he said with a knowing smile. 'I'm not going to get drawn into that.'Chavez door shut: Even if former A's third baseman Eric Chavez were to prove he's healthy and ready to contribute to a big-league team this season, he won't be back in Oakland.Reports surfaced Wednesday that Chavez, a free agent whose final four years with the A's were marred by a steady stream of injuries, surgeries and rehab, has drawn interest from the Pirates, among other teams.'I'm sure he'll find a spot if he wants to play,' Forst said. 'But like Eric himself said, he's probably better off going somewhere else to get a change of scenery.'Dribblers: Cust's signing also reduced the options of Vladimir Guerrero, another potential DH, but the Rangers remain the frontrunner to retain his services. '. Nothing significant to report on the quest for a fifth-starter candidate, Forst said. Non-tendered pitchers and six-year free agents are sure to be explored, and a trade hasn't been ruled out. ' The meetings close Thursday morning with the Rule 5 draft, but the A's aren't expecting to lose anyone in the big-league phase of it. ' Forst said the team's search for pop isn't limited to third base and DH. If a corner outfielder makes sense, they'll add him.