A's using brains and brawn at Winter Meetings


A's using brains and brawn at Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE -- The A's are ironing out details with dumbbells and barbells. Amid elliptical trainers and treadmills, Oakland isn't exactly sweating over the details presented by Stephen Drew's agent Scott Boras at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.

According to Boras, there are a number of clubs interested in Drew. He declined to specify the number. He did say that he has met with A's general manager Billy Beane the past two mornings -- in a somewhat unorthodox setting.

"It was in the gym," he said. "And I was dodging medicine balls."

Boras described Beane as a little bigger and stronger than himself. Maybe that is why the A's general manager prefers to discuss business while pumping iron.

"My best work is done in the gym," Beane said with a smile in his suite.

All kidding aside, the interest that Drew is drawing from Oakland remains consistent. Beane will meet with Boras in a more formal setting before departing the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

"I consider that formal," Beane said of his gym meetings. "All the rumors are true. That's really my office."

Boras claims that Drew is the head of the free agent class at shortstop. Surrounded by a large contingent of national media, Boras described the market for the 29-year-old shortstop's services as "ever-growing."

"I think he's looked at as the shortstop of this market," Boras declared.

The frequent meetings aren't exactly a sign that something is going to get done soon. There is no sense of urgency on the A's side to complete a deal for a shortstop, yet. The A's like to wait for a bargain, and Boras' clients tend to sign late in the offseason.

The waiting game has left the A's with one less option to fill their infield needs. The Rays acquired Yunel Escobar on Tuesday in a trade with the Marlins. The A's did have some interest in Escobar.   

"We've explored some trade possibilities and opted not to pursue some of those," Beane said.

It's not hard to decipher who the clever A's GM was referring to there.

Oakland has also been meeting with the representation for international free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions' shortstop from the Japanese Pacific League is an intriguing option.

With one less trade target on the board, and the A's and Boras playing dodgeball, Oakland's time in Nashville is more of a fact finding mission than anything. The team is laying the groundwork for a deal or signing. After all, it is equally important to exercise the mind and muscles alike. 

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.