A's looking to Japan for their next shortstop?


A's looking to Japan for their next shortstop?

UPDATE at 3:10 p.m. -- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting the A's and shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima are close to an agreement. The A's have scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Tuesday. Stay logged on for more soon from Insider Casey Pratt. 

OAKLAND -- Another shortstop option is slipping away. Stephen Drew and the Red Sox have reportedly agreed to sign a one-year deal according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

Drew would have been a good fit in Oakland where the defending American League West Champions currently have a hole at shortstop. The A's met with Drew's agent Scott Boras several times and were interested in a short-term deal, which he eventually signed with Boston. The belief was that Drew could take a deal like this to prove he can have a full and productive season and potentially cash in next offseason.

Drew, 29, only played 79 games in 2012, and missed a total of 137 games with Arizona from July 21, 2011 through June 26 due to a fractured right ankle. After being acquired by the A's on August 20, he seemed to finally get back into the swing of things. He played solid defense and hit .250 with five homers, 16 RBI, and 18 walks in 39 games with the A's.

The deal is reportedly for $9.5 million, or $500,000 less than the A's could have had him for in 2013 with the mutual option on Drew's previous contract. That's a good chunk of change for a career .265 hitter that has only played more than 150 games once in his seven-year MLB career.

Let's explain the mutual option Drew and the A's had. If they decided to stay together in 2013, then Oakland would have paid Drew $10 million. The A's declined the mutual option and Drew became a free agent. Drew and his agent Scott Boras would have been wise to want to test free agency, and the A's were wise not to agree to pay Drew $10 million for a one-year deal. This gave the A's a chance to try and work on signing the shortstop to a multiyear contract at a more reasonable annual rate.

Drew was a good fit in Oakland because he was well-liked by manager Bob Melvin and bench coach Chip Hale. They both coached him when he was with Arizona. The familiarity Drew has with Melvin, Hale, and the A's returning roster seemed like it could have made Oakland an appealing destination, but money talks.

Any solution the A's turn to at shortstop will likely be a short-term option. The A's have 2012 first round pick Addison Russell in the farm system. He could possibly be ready to take over in a couple years.

Oakland has expressed interest in Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions' shortstop from the Japanese Pacific League is an intriguing option. He hit .311 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, 52 walks, and a .382 on-base percentage in 2012 in the Japan Pacific League. It is hard to project how those numbers would translate in Oakland. At the Winter Meetings in Nashville, A's manager Bob Melvin said of Nakajima, "He's a hitter, he looks like a hitter."

Initially it appeared the A's were confident in being able to bring back Drew. They traded Cliff Pennington -- who represented their best in-house plan -- to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Chris Young. Without Pennington, the A's internal options are limited.

On November 16, Oakland acquired infielder Andy Perrino from the Padres. Perrino, 27, played 26 games at shortstop for San Diego in 2012. The switch hitter provides some much needed depth for the A's infield. Adam Rosales played 15 games at shortstop last season, and Eric Sogard played 11 games there.

Grant Green could be an emergency option, but the organization made it pretty clear they don't consider his defense at shortstop adequate. They moved the first round pick to the outfield in 2011, and he played five different positions last season. He would have remained at shortstop if they thought he could succeed there.

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.

That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.

“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”

Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.

“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”

Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:

“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”

Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.

“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.