Beane looking to go young in offseason
GM to pursue youth rather than spending on free agents
OAKLAND -- The 15-day window in which teams hold exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents closes at 9 p.m. PT on Thursday, at which point the A's will be free to start their holiday shopping.
But based on general manager Billy Beane's comments on Tuesday after a press conference honoring Andrew Bailey for being named the American League Rookie of the Year, fans ought not to expect Oakland to whip out its proverbial wallet any time soon.
Yes, Beane is interested in bringing back a couple of his own free agents -- right-hander Justin Duchscherer and infielder Adam Kennedy. Both figure to get plenty of interest on the open market, though, and Beane suggested that he's content to let the free-agent frenzy play out without his active participation.
In other words, he's staying the course that he set a couple of winters ago before appearing to veer a bit off last offseason with the acquisitions of veteran stars Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra.
Beane, now more than ever, is committed to going young. If he doesn't think a current need -- third base, first base, shortstop and left field are unsettled -- can be filled by a prospect from within the organization, he'll be looking to acquire such players via trade.
Those players, he suggested, would have to be up-and-comers. He seems to have little to no interest in down-siders such as Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada and Carlos Delgado.
Only if Plans A and B fall through will Beane dive into what's considered a fairly shallow free-agent pool.
"I think our first goal this winter is, the positions we need to fill, fill them with young guys," he said. "If we get into January and we haven't acquired a young player, then we'll consider a guy to fill in temporarily. The first goal is to find a young guy. Our long-term goal is to create a team with continuity that is going to be here for a number of years.
Thus, if Kennedy is sincere in his desire to return to Oakland, he'll likely have to wait a while before getting an offer. Duchscherer's situation is slightly different in that the A's could use a veteran to complement their stable of gifted young starters, but the message is the same.
Whatever money is available to upgrade the team's talent might stay in the coffers unless it's used to pay the salaries of young players brought in via trade.
"We're going to look at young players to fill spots, first and foremost," Beane said. "If those players we'd like to acquire aren't obtainable, we'll consider bringing in guys who can hold the positions down. We're going to stay disciplined and try to do everything we can to fill those spots with young players."
Ideally, top prospects such as third baseman Brett Wallace and first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter will quickly blossom into the positional equivalent of Bailey.
"We've always been proud of our player development history here," Beane said. "Really, if you look at when the club has been good, this has been a precursor to many of those good years. This is the fourth [Rookie of the Year] we've had since '98, and usually following that we've had some pretty good success."
With success, of course, comes excitement. And Beane knows that the patience of Oakland's small but passionate fan base is wearing thin on the heels of three consecutive losing seasons.
"Ultimately when you start winning games is when they get really interested. I'm aware of that," Beane said. "So the next step is to continue to bring guys like Andrew up here. That's our responsibility, and I know the deal.
"To sign a couple free agents and have three or four press conferences during the winter doesn't get it done," Beane said. "We're going to be disciplined."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.