Buyers or sellers? A's homestand will reveal


Buyers or sellers? A's homestand will reveal

OAKLAND -- The addition of a second Wild Card berth gives fresh life to the A's, who are stuck in a small sand box with the MLB bullies from Texas and Anaheim.

But on the other side of the 2012 All-Star break, the A's are just 12 game out of the Wild Card play-in game, and playing great baseball. They're 9-1 over their last 10 games, but their hottest stretch of baseball since September of 2009 takes them into series against the two top teams in baseball.

Two games vs. the 54-35 Rangers followed by four against the 55-34 Yankees. Whether the A's will admit it or not, it's a big homestand.

And whether or not the A's, as they are currently constructed, can compete with the A.L.'s top teams in the coming weeks will determine if Billy Beane is making -- or fielding -- phone calls as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

As buyers:

Not the type of club to rent a player for a playoff push, any move made would likely have to benefit the team in future years.

The A's have a surplus of pitching and enough outfielders. They've shored up first base with Chris Carter and Brandon Moss, and the addition of Derek Norris has added pop as well.

But the left side of the infield is one area the A's could improve.

With Edwin Encarnacion signing a three-year extension with Toronto and the Brewers saying they don't have intentions to trade Aramis Ramirez, the market for third basemen is shallow.

Chase Headley:

The Padres' Chase Headley is expected to be the most attractive option at the hot corner. Reports indicate San Diego has already fielded calls from six teams about their 28-year-old third baseman, including requests from the division rival Mariners and Angels.

Headley has 10 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .266 average in 90 games this year.

He won't hit free agency until 2014, giving him at least two seasons with his new team should he be traded.

Jimmy Rollins:

As a 10-5 player, Rollins has full no-trade protection, but it would be interesting to see if the Oakland native would entertain a trade to the A's.

The 13-year Philly veteran is batting .262 this season with nine home runs and 14 stolen bases. Though he is getting up in age, the 33-year-old would still be a marked upgrade over Cliff Pennington, who owns an unimpressive .203.266.290 line this year.

The fourth most expensive MLB shortstop would come at a price as he signed a three-year, 33 million contract before the season.

Stephen Drew:

Shortstop Stephen Drew is only recently returned from the gruesome ankle injury that cost him 11 months.

Drew, 29, is batting .233 with three RBIs in the 13 games he's played since his return.

He's in the second season of a two-year, 13.75 million contract that has a mutual option for 2013 that would pay him 10 million if exercised and 1.35 million if it's bought out.

Yunel Escobar:

Yunel Escobar, 29, is batting .249 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. He is in the first of a two-year, 10 million contract with Toronto, who is reportedly not opposed to letting him go with prospect Adeiny Hechavarria waiting for his chance.

Escobar's contract has club options for 2014 and 2015 at 5 million.

Marco Scutaro:

Former Athletic Marco Scutaro is having a solid season for the Rockies, and would be a solid and flexible addition to the left side. He can play short and third, in addition to second base, and he's familiar with how things work in Oakland.

Scutaro is hitting .273 this year, with 42 runs and 25 RBIs. He is in the final season of a three-year 17.5 million contract.

As sellers:

If the A's fare poorly against the Rangers and A's, and Billy Beane decides to keep lining his ducks for future seasons, there are a few expendable Athletics who would be of value to competing clubs. But don't expect the squad to let any of its cornerstones get away.

Coco Crisp:

Coco Crisp's combination of speed and pop, and his knack for making things happen atop the lineup are rare in the bigs.

Crisp has missed time this year earlier with an inner ear infection and stomach virus, and he is currently day-to-day with a strained shoulder.

The 11-year veteran might not garner as much in return as he once would have; he's having one of his worst seasons at the plate so far. Crisp

The departure of Crisp, who is in the first year of a two-year, 14 million contract, would open things up in the A's outfield, and among other things, give manager Bob Melvin the chance to play Chris Carter and Brandon Moss together in the lineup.

Bartolo Colon:
Bartolo Colon signed a one-year, 2 million contract with the A's, and he's been well worth it, going 6-7 with a 3.80 ERA this year.

His season features two eight-inning shutout bids against A.L. West rivals -- the Rangers and Angels.

His heavy diet of dancing fastballs would be a solid addition to any playoff-bound staff.

Kurt Suzuki:
With the emergence of Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki is suddenly -- though the team won't admit it -- dispensable.

Suzuki's offensive numbers have dropped off this year, but he is known league-wide for his adept ability to handle a staff, especially a young one.

The 28-year-old catcher is in the second of a four-year contract worth 16.25 million.

Grant Balfour:
Relief pitchers are always in demand come the trade deadline, and veteran Grant Balfour, who has filled multiple roles in the 'pen for the A's, is no different.

He is in the second year of a two-year, 8.1 million contract with the A's.

A 10-5 player is one who has 10 years of MLB service, the last five of which came with the same team. In 1970, players of such status were granted the right to veto any trade that involves them.

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

MESA, Ariz. — After spending a few days at spring training, A’s president Dave Kaval heads back to the Bay Area on Tuesday to continue work on the team’s search for a ballpark site.

There are so many factors to consider — location, public transportation access, parking, government obligations to be fulfilled, etc. — it’s easy to understand why it’s such an all-encompassing process.

Kaval shared some detailed thoughts on all of the potential sites the A’s are considering during a visit on the A’s Insider Podcast. Here’s some highlights:

The A’s have narrowed down to four locations in Oakland to build a privately financed ballpark: Brooklyn Basin, Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site on which they play.

Are these four all uniquely different from each other or do they share some common traits?

“I think all of them can fulfill our long-term vision of this urban area around the ballpark,” Kaval said. “Think of Fenway, Wrigley … all of them can achieve that vision. We want to make sure with such a big decision that we swing for the fences. … I think the Coliseum is probably the hardest to create kind of an urban village, but I think it’s possible, and we’re not ruling it out.

"But all the other locations can have neighborhoods around the ballpark where people can live and you can just have a really intimate experience around the ballpark.”

There hasn’t been the same buzz about Brooklyn Basin as Howard Terminal. Located close to the water, does it offer similar attributes as Howard Terminal?

“It’s very close. There’s a couple different places the ballpark could go down there,” he said. “You’re closer to the water, which is exciting, and I think being on the water provides the ability to have water taxis, ferries, other transit options that kind of lower the requirement for parking, lower the requirement for walking or biking. And that actually can be a really great thing for the fan experience.”

Howard Terminal offers a big potential payoff with the terrific views available. But there are some substantial hurdles, not the least of which are the government regulations and approvals required to build right along the water.

“If you want to actually develop something in there, you need to have legislation from the state of California. That’s just something that has to happen,” Kaval said. “So when we think about the steps to get the individual sites (approved) and break ground, it’s just another one you have to do at that site. So you have to weigh, is it worth the time, effort, political opposition that might come up to pursue that type of effort? The site is so iconic that we’ve been keeping it in the mix because, wow, it could just be something that is a game changer.”

That’s just a sample of the many topics Kaval touched on over the course of the podcast.