This A's team will stay intact

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This A's team will stay intact

OAKLAND -- The players weren't the only people taking notice when the sellout crowd gave the A's a standing ovation after their final game. The front office saw it too. "I think we are in good shape," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "The satisfying thing about the crowd's response last night is that they by and large are going to see this team again next year." That has to be a refreshing comment for a fan base used to rooting for laundry instead of the players wearing the uniforms. This team won 94 games, the American League West, has just four free agents and a very low payroll. It seems they are well set up for the future. "If there's moves made the idea would be additions," Beane said. "I've had situations where we've had great season and I knew the team wasn't going to be back though free agency and things like that. To try to continue the momentum in the winter we should be able to build on this next year."
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While fans cringed and lost hope last offseason as All-Stars Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey were traded, now they can see why the moves were made. Those trades brought guys like Josh Reddick, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Ryan Cook, Derek Norris, and stacked the farm system. The reshuffling of the deck has the A's playing a strong hand now. "There certainly were some raised eyebrows going into the season as to what this team might be," Beane said. "To see them from start to finish, despite coming up short last night, to see what they accomplished and what the staff accomplished was somewhat satisfying." Pretty much every important player is cost controlled or already signed. The A's starting outfield isn't going anywhere. Yoenis Cespedes and Reddick won't be free agents until 2016. Coco Crisp is signed through next season. Seth Smith isn't a free agent until 2015. "The pieces are here to carry this forward and the expectations for next year should be higher because of it," Melvin said. The A's pitching staff is in great shape. Brandon McCarthy is a free agent, but the team has expressed interest in bringing him back. Brett Anderson will be back next year, and Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Travis Blackley are all under team control. "The young pitchers were great but because they are so young there's room for improvement," Beane said. "We are going to cryogenically freeze all of our pitchers and tell them not to raise their arms above their hips."The A's have a 4.5 million club option on Grant Balfour for next season. Beane strongly hinted that the A's Australian closer will be raging in Green and Gold next season. "There's some things that seem like common sense, you can pick and choose as to which of those would be considered no brainers," Beane said when asked if Balfour would be back. "Some things you don't have to think too long about they are pretty obvious." The fans may be pessimistic after seeing many of their favorite players unceremoniously shipped out in trades, or not resigned as free agents, but this team really won't require much offseason tinkering. This roster exceeded all expectations and complimentary parts will likely be added in the offseason. The 2012 Oakland Athletics shattered many of the outsiders' expectations. Did they really shock the A's front office? "Privately when we were in Spring Training I think Bob and ourselves thought we were better than everyone was giving credit, but there is no sense in saying that," Beane said. "There's no upside in telling anyone that." "I knew we had a chance to get better and that was the expectation for myself and the staff," Melvin added. "To continually get better throughout the season and kind of find out who you are at the All-Star Break and go from there."
RATTO: Oakland rekindles love affair with baseballThat's pretty much exactly what they did. It started a little earlier than the Mid-Summer Classic though. From June 2, on the A's had a 72-38 record which was the best in baseball. After the All-Star Break the A's led Major League Baseball in home runs and runs scored. They were 13 games back on June 30, and five games back with nine to play, yet they somehow won the American League West. It was a special season. "I've been with plenty of teams, I've been with a World Series team, I've been with a young team in Arizona that won in 2007, but not like this," Melvin said. "This was a very unique group of guys that came together very quickly." Billy Beane was on the 1989 A's. He assembled the A's playoff teams of 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006, heck, Hollywood even made a movie based on what he did in 2002. So if he says this year was special, then you better listen. "Personally for me it was arguably the most enjoyable year I've had," Beane said. "Given the entire baseball season, the winter, the amount of transactions we made."The credit goes to the players. Beane will typically remind you of that point. Yet, this team doesn't stand a chance at doing what it did without the leadership of Bob Melvin. During the A's champagne celebration after winning the AL West, third baseman Josh Donaldson pulled me aside, made sure my recorder was ready and went on an impassioned rant about why Melvin deserves manager of the year. Melvin had that strong of an impression on the team. Every player on the A's would run through a brick wall for Melvin. "Bo-Mel preached it from game one in Spring Training, one game at a time, 27 outs," Cliff Pennington said. "There's a lot of people and a lot of managers that could say something like that and it would just be talk. This team, it was everything we were about." Melvin was communicative, had his lineups posted early every day, openly answered any question asked by the media, and even gave us the microwave in his office so we could heat up our food in the press box. Manager of the Year? Uh, yeah. "Obviously I am biased, but with all do respect, I think Buck Showalter has done a phenomenal job, I can't imagine anyone other than Bob Melvin being manager of the year," Beane said. "That statement from me says it all." Beane's vote of confidence in Melvin is huge. Traditionally the A's GM has employed more passive managers. His hiring of Melvin was a departure from that strategy and it has worked. "When a manager takes a club where the team is expected to lose 100 games and the team wins the toughest division in baseball" Beane said. "I don't know what somebody would have to do to win manager of the year."Melvin is also under team control. He signed a three-year contract prior to this season. The A's had Major League-leading 14 regular season walk-off wins, had the best July (19-5) in franchise history. They tied an Oakland record with 12 consecutive road wins. They had the lowest starting pitcher's ERA (3.48) and bullpen ERA (2.90) in the franchise's last 12 years. "They were pretty amazing," Melvin said. "The turnover and everything that happened during the course of the season, the strength of the organization showed up based on how many guys we did end up using so we are proud of that." The A's have a lot to be proud of. They may have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs but they plan on being back. As players sauntered into the clubhouse to pack up their clubhouse stalls it definitely felt like something was missing. The players, coaches, and clubbies were there, but there was no game to play. "It's a pretty empty day, Melvin said. "I didn't plan on spending my day like this today it never crossed my mind." There remains some questions to be answered. Will Stephen Drew test the open waters of free agency? How does Scott Sizemore fit in at third base with Josh Donaldson? What becomes of Jemile Weeks? Will the A's be able to bring back Jonny Gomes, or make room for Brandon Inge? Does McCarthy choose to come back, will he be ready? What the heck is going on with the A's stadium issue? Perhaps most importantly, can they do it again? We'll find out soon enough.

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

A's spring training Day 37: Triggs strengthens his bid for rotation spot

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Last year Andrew Triggs was one of an assembly line of starting pitchers the A’s ran out to the mound after injuries took their toll.

This spring, Triggs looks ready to assume a more instrumental role. On Wednesday, he stepped up with his best effort of the spring in Oakland’s 5-3 victory over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

He fared well against a Chicago lineup saturated with left-handed hitters. He commanded his fastball. His curve had bite to it. And with his cutter lacking, Triggs kept hitters off-balance with his changeup and threw five innings of three-hit ball. He gave up two runs, struck out four and didn’t issue a walk.

In short, it was everything manager Bob Melvin needed to see as he evaluates whether this late-blooming right-hander is ready for the starting rotation.

“This was his best outing so far,” Melvin said. “His best command, sharpest breaking ball. He had good movement on his fastball. Once you’re getting out there to 75-80 pitches, you’ve got a chance to not only evaluate performance, there’s endurance involved. Everything.”

Triggs, 28, had surrendered six runs in just 3 2/3 innings his last time out against Cleveland. He was much more efficient Wednesday.

“I felt like I had a pretty good feel for most everything in the arsenal,” he said.

Most of Triggs’ major league work last season, in his first taste of the bigs, came in relief. If he’s to pitch every fifth day in 2017, he needs to show he can retire lefties consistently, and remain effective two and three times through a batting order.

Catcher Stephen Vogt believes Triggs has the repertoire to do that.

“The nice part about a four-pitch mix is very rarely are you gonna have all four on any given night. So if two go away, you've got two more to back it up,” Vogt said. “Today his cutter, usually one of his better pitches, wasn’t that great. He needed to rely more on the changeup and he did.

“Then he gets those swings and misses with the big breaking ball. It’s fun to make the crowd kind of ‘woo.’ It’s always a good sign.”

STOCK RISING: Another pitcher who helped his cause Wednesday was Frankie Montas, who struck out four over two scoreless innings to seal the victory.

“He continues to do what he continues to do,” Melvin said. “He’s throwing more and more breaking balls too.”

In Montas’ four outings, he’s allowed just one earned run over eight innings for a 1.13 ERA. He’s struck out nine and walked one. In light of Melvin saying his bullpen could use a reliever that can handle multiple innings, Montas has positioned himself squarely in the conversation for a 25-man roster spot.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s have collected 10 doubles over their last two games, and Wednesday they jumped ahead with big offense early once again. Ryon Healy went 2-for-3 with an RBI and is hitting .359. Vogt is also swinging it well. He doubled home two runs in the first and is batting .324.

FAMILIAR FACE: : Tyler Ladendorf, who spent the previous seven-plus seasons in the A’s organization, entered mid-game at shortstop for the Sox and struck out in his only at-bat. Ladendorf signed with Chicago on a minor league deal earlier this spring.

ODDS AND ENDS: With their 13th victory, the A’s (13-10) eclipsed their win total from all of last spring with 11 games still to go. … Sonny Gray (strained lat muscle) felt good a day after playing catch for the first time in two weeks. He was set to do so again Wednesday. … Rajai Davis (1-for-3) scored two runs and notched his fifth stolen base. … Ryan Madson gave up a run in his one inning of work. His ERA is 7.50 through six outings. He’s allowed 10 hits over six innings. … Santiago Casilla, in his fourth appearance, threw a scoreless inning with one hit and one walk.

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

Mailbag: How would Raiders' move affect A's ballpark search?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With one week to go until the A’s break camp and head north, there are still some roster issues to be cleared up.

The big-picture question regarding this team, obviously, is where it might be building a future ballpark.

With all this in mind, we try to provide some clarity on questions submitted via Twitter:

From @Cjkittrell: If the Raiders move to Vegas, does the Coliseum site jump to the top of the list of possible ballpark sites by default?

That’s not necessarily the case. You have to remember what the A’s crave more than anything in a ballpark location: A thriving surrounding area — with restaurants, bars, shops, etc. — that will make the ballpark an attraction beyond the baseball game itself. Team president Dave Kaval has talked of wanting a “ballpark village” around a new venue. A downside of the Coliseum is that there is nothing around the area right now that would attract fans besides the baseball. Other sites, including Howard Terminal, appear to have more potential as far as surrounding attractions.

This doesn’t count out the Coliseum as an option. As Kaval has said, it’s the only site of four being considered that the A’s know is truly viable. There’s comfort in that. And the BART station, freeway access and available parking are big plusses. But something else I’ll mention in regard to the Raiders: Even if they announce a move to Las Vegas, they have lease agreements that would keep them playing football at the Coliseum at least through the 2018 season while their Vegas stadium is under construction. With the Raiders likely to be on the property for that period, it could complicate the A’s own hypothetical construction plans for the Coliseum site.

From @44BWells: With the emergence of Franklin Barrreto and the contract of Jed Lowrie, what's Joey Wendle's present and future?

They appear murky, don’t they? First and foremost, Wendle has to recover from a sore right shoulder that’s kept him out of exhibitions for a while. But the acquisition of utility man Adam Rosales meant Wendle probably wasn’t going to make the club out of spring training anyway. He’s got a fan in manager Bob Melvin, who was impressed with Wendle defensively last September. It was Wendle’s glove that was the question mark when he arrived from the Cleveland Indians. Barreto has the star-caliber upside and the hype. Once the A’s deem him ready, Lowrie becomes a trade possibility. But Wendle’s advantage is that, to a degree, he’s already proven himself in the majors. He’s a known quantity at this level. If a second baseman is needed early in the season, Wendle could get a call-up before Barreto if Barreto gets off to a slow start.

As for Wendle’s future beyond 2017, it would serve him well to be able to handle as many positions as possible. He realizes this. That’s why he volunteered to play winter ball in Mexico this past offseason, where he played lots of shortstop. His role moving forward could be as more of a utility guy, because I see Barreto growing roots at second base.

@ONChristy: Do the A's have the pieces, both in the majors and minors, to make a run in 2018-2020?

Well, it’s definitely tough to look down the road and forecast a three-year block. Here’s a short answer for you: They better! All of the trades of the past couple seasons have been made with an eye toward stockpiling young talent — especially on the pitching side. Contending this year will be a tall order. But by the end of this season, I’d expect Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman to have gotten their feet wet in the big leagues. There’s a strong chance you’ll also see young pitchers such as Frankie Montas and Daniel Gossett up. There’s a large core of young players who are on the cusp of being major league ready.

Add to that some core veterans such as Khris Davis, Kendall Graveman Marcus Semien and (if he’s not traded) Sonny Gray— who will all be under team control through 2019 at least — and the A’s have a solid foundation for contending in that timeframe you mention. But let’s face it, there’s a lot that can and usually does happen over any three-year span that completely changes what we think we know going in.