Drew still drawing interest from A's

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Drew still drawing interest from A's

NASHVILLE -- The A's are still in the mix for free agent shortstop Stephen Drew. A's general manager Billy Beane noted that he would meet with Drew's agent Scott Boras, "probably sooner than later," at the Winter Meetings. Drew was acquired by Oakland on August 20 in a trade with the Diamondbacks. He hit .250 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 39 games with the A's. The patient shortstop drew 18 walks and played sound defense as he recovered from an ankle fracture he sustained in 2011 with Arizona. Oakland had a mutual option on Drew but declined it after the season. Had Drew and the A's decided to stay together, the shortstop would have earned 10 million in 2013. Now the A's have the opportunity to sign Drew for multiple years at a more reasonable annual rate."Shortstop is a position that we are focused on right now," Beane said from his suite in the Gaylord Opryland hotel. "Beyond that I don't see a lot of glaring needs." A's manager Bob Melvin said that Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima's name has come up in internal meetings. Beane admitted that he could also be somebody the team looks at.Beane said the organization isn't interested in rushing first round pick Addison Russell to take over at shortstop, and that prospect Grant Green isn't considered to be an option there either. Green could be in the mix for a job at second base, though.
RELATED: 2013 A's roster breakdown -- Second base
Don't hold you breath for the A's to fill the void at shortstop at the Winter Meetings. The term "market makers" came up frequently in talks with Beane, and the team's strategy is to wait and see what the market dictates by evaluating what other offers are on the table for the players they are interested in. In short, the reigning General Manager of the Year is comfortable waiting. If things don't go well on the free agent market, the A's are open to acquiring a shortstop via trade, but they aren't interested in moving any of their starting pitchers to make it happen. In order to land a quality shortstop, it will likely cost them pitching in return. That would limit the A's to using prospects as trade chips. Oakland has six Major League-caliber starting pitchers but they are always concerned with depth in the starting rotation. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Brett Anderson, Bartolo Colon, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily are all candidates to make the starting rotation. "One of the reasons we are so reluctant to move our young guys is because it's one thing to move them, but to replace them is so challenging," Beane said. It also remains a possibility that Oakland could still sign free agent pitcher Brandon McCarthy to give them even more depth on the mound. The A's have been in contact with McCarthy and his agent, but noted there's still a lot of time left to sign players. "I would expect given his talents and the lack of starting pitching out there that he is going to be attractive to a lot of teams," Beane said of McCarthy. When on the mound McCarthy was extremely effective. Behind the scenes he helped the young pitchers prepare themselves. He had a career-best 3.24 ERA in 2012, and 1.95 walks per nine innings, which ranked him eighth among AL pitchers with 100 or more innings. "That door is always open until it's closed," Melvin said of McCarthy. In addition to the young starting pitchers, Beane said he wouldn't want to part with relievers Sean Doolittle or Ryan Cook. Those are his two most valuable bullpen trade chips. With rumors flying around the lobby like baseballs from a Jugs Pitching Machine, keep everything in stride. The A's will be taking their time at the Winter Meetings.

Royals ace Yordano Ventura dies in car crash at 25 years old

Royals ace Yordano Ventura dies in car crash at 25 years old

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, whose electric arm and confident demeanor helped lead his long-suffering team to the 2015 World Series title, died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic early Sunday. He was 25.

With the fitting nickname of "Ace," Ventura burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound.

Not surprisingly, he quickly became a fan favorite as Kansas City embraced baseball once again.

"Our prayers right now are with Yordano's family as we mourn this young man's passing," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. "He was so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberance and always brought a smile to everyone he interacted with. We will get through this as an organization, but right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano."

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. Mateo did not say whether Ventura was driving.

Also Sunday, former major league infielder Andy Marte died in a separate car accident in the Dominican Republic. Metropolitan traffic authorities said he died about 95 miles north of the capital.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura," players union executive Tony Clark said. "It's never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and there are no words to describe the feeling of losing two young men in the prime of their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, teammates and fans throughout the United States and Latin America."

Ventura is the second young pitching star to die in past four months. Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was among three men killed in a boating accident in late September, when the 24-year-old pitcher's boat crashed into a jetty off Miami Beach in the early morning hours.

Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time since 1985. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts, though the Royals would ultimately lose in seven games.

In an eerie coincidence, Ventura paid tribute to his friend and countryman, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, with a handwritten message on his cap during Game 6. Taveras also was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, and his funeral occurred just hours before Ventura stepped on the mound.

The following year, now firmly entrenched in the rotation, Ventura helped lead Kansas City back to the World Series, pitching well in two starts against Toronto in the AL championship Series. The Royals went on to beat the New York Mets in five games to win their second championship.

Not surprisingly, the Royals moved quickly to sign their burgeoning young ace to a five-year contract through the 2019 season that included two more options that could have kept him in Kansas City.

He wound up pitching his entire career for the Royals, going 38-31 with a 3.89 ERA.

Born June 3, 1991, in Samana, Dominican Republic, Ventura represented a true rags-to-riches story. He quit school at 14 and was laboring on a construction crew to support his family when Ventura heard about a tryout, which led to a spot in the Royals' academy located on his picturesque island home.

Still, the odds were long that Ventura would ever make it to the big leagues. Very few players from the Dominican academies reached the pinnacle of the sport.

But over time, Ventura was able to harness one of the most electric fastballs that scouts had seen in years, and his headstrong and confident nature was essential in his rapid rise. He made his big league debut to great fanfare in 2013, allowing just one run again Cleveland in a sign of things to come.

He eventually became a cornerstone of a youth movement that included young stars such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, one that carried the Royals first to respectability, then to the top of the American League — rare heights the organization had not experienced in decades.

Hosmer took to Twitter upon hearing the news of Ventura's death, saying: "I love you my brother. I'm in disbelief and don't know what to say. I love you ACE."

Moustakas also expressed disbelief, tweeting: "I love you Ace. I don't know what to say other than I'm going to miss you a lot. RIP ACE."

Reports: Ex-A's catcher Suzuki agrees to deal with NL East team

Reports: Ex-A's catcher Suzuki agrees to deal with NL East team

Kurt Suzuki is headed back to the National League.

After three seasons in the American League with the Twins, the former A's backstop has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves.

News of the agreement was first reported by SB Nation.

Suzuki will reportedly make $1.5 million, according to Fox Sports. He has a chance to make an addition $2.5 million in incentives.

The 33-year-old Suzuki was drafted by the A's in the second round of 2004 MLB Draft. He made his debut with Oakland in 2007 and was the starting catcher until a 2012 trade to Washington. A year later, the Nationals traded Suzuki back to the A's for the final five weeks of the season.

Prior to the 2014 season, Suzuki signed with Twins. In three seasons with Minnesota, Suzuki hit .263/.316/.364 with 75 doubles, 16 home runs and 160 RBI.

Suzuki will likely serve as a back-up to catcher Tyler Flowers.