Beane being cautious with A's uncertain future
GM feels verdict on stadium approval coming sooner than later
OAKLAND -- In looking forward, Billy Beane is not simply thinking about short-term help, the kind that brings about quick, but not necessarily sustainable, success.
He's had no choice but to do so in the past. But in speaking to reporters in an informal postseason address at the Oakland Coliseum on Monday, the A's general manager noted he's carrying a cautious-heavy approach when preparing for 2011 and beyond.
Much of that mindset comes from the unknown that is his club's future home, an area of concern that affects several aspects of any potential offseason moves, particularly those involving offensive additions. A new stadium approval -- a decision Beane feels is coming "sooner than later" -- would likely dictate his budget, possibly restricting him in the free-agent pool until a move-in day is on the calendar.
"What's important is making sure to enter that new stadium with the best personnel as possible," he said. "Successful stadiums are the result of having great teams playing, so that's obviously something we'll be keeping one eye on as we consider long-term expenditures."
Yet, on the flip side, the team's current home limits Beane and his wheeling-and-dealing plans, as well.
"We've found the last couple years, it's been challenging," he said. "We've lost some players because of it.
"I was talking to one free agent last year, trying to tell him to concentrate on the field, that we had the best playing facility in the league, the best groundskeeper in the league. He said, 'You're right -- until August.'"
Beane couldn't argue, knowing full well the Oakland Raiders quickly tarnish what's only partly theirs when football season begins. Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro represented two known players who chose not to sign with the A's last year, and there's no telling who will be faced with the same decision this winter.
The obvious answer is a power threat, someone to hold up a speedy but semi-weak lineup. Beane said he does not have a "strong feeling at this point" on where that will come from, whether it be through free agency or trade. But that's not even his biggest concern right now. At least, that's the sentiment he expressed when asked if he would make a definitive statement on whether the team will assuredly add offense.
"We will attempt to make our team better," Beane said. "It's a worn-out statement, but the biggest impact on why we weren't competing up to last week was our health. I'd take health over power right now and take my chances.
"That being said, [offense] is an area we're going to be looking at, but somewhat more strategically than just looking at someone's power numbers. Ultimately, we'd like to get as many multitalented players as possible, and that includes the other side of the diamond -- defense and running the bases as well, because we were a very good baserunning team this year."
The A's -- led by the fast-moving Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington -- compiled 156 stolen bases, which was the ninth-best single-season total in Oakland history and the most by an A's team since the 1989 club had 157. The club's total ranked third in both the American League and the Majors.
At the same time, Oakland had the second-fewest home runs in the AL, along with a .378 slugging percentage and a .241 average with runners in scoring position, both of which were second lowest in the league. Kevin Kouzmanoff led the A's with 16 long balls, the fewest by a team leader in Oakland history.
"We need power, which is true, but I'm not quite sure it's that simple," Beane said. "One of the strengths of this team is its team defense, so just to take a look at one area of need and identify a player and plug him in somewhere, you have to understand how that's going to impact one of the things that was very successful for us. The trick will be trying to address that need and not take away from a trend."
When considering a handful of surprises that came out of Oakland this year, chiefly hurler Trevor Cahill's early success as part of a rotation that led the AL with a 3.47 ERA, Beane was quick to mention a helpful defense that committed just 99 errors, which was fifth fewest in the league.
An impressive infield was mainly responsible for such a mark. Not only did the A's -- as expected -- receive sturdy hands from the likes of Kouzmanoff and the Gold Glove-caliber play of Mark Ellis, but they witnessed rapid progression from youngsters Daric Barton and Cliff Pennington.
The youth movement taking place in Oakland highlights several players -- Barton and Pennington included -- who Beane hopes will stick around for several years to come. Again, though, the probability of such a scene unfolding will rest in the hands of Commissioner Bud Selig, whose decision to appoint a three-panel committee to study the A's stadium options came nearly two years ago.
"I think we're going to be planning a new stadium at some point soon," Beane said. "That's just my own gut feeling. We have to at some point. I'm an optimist.
"I think it will allow us to start to plan around some of these guys here from a long-term standpoint. Hopefully, it's not a revolving door, like it's been the last decade. Hopefully, we could do some long-term planning, which we really haven't been able to do. I think it would be pretty invigorating for everybody involved, and I think everybody would sort of be relieved having a direction for the franchise."
Right now, though, Beane must focus on more immediate questions, including the 2011 club options attached to Ellis ($6 million) and Crisp ($5.75 million). Those decisions, along with Eric Chavez's hefty option -- almost assuredly to be declined -- and the fate of the coaching staff, are expected to come as soon as next week, but not anytime before.
"Probably more sooner than later is the best that I can tell you," Beane said. "We're having some organizational meetings next week. A small group of upper management will fly down and spend about four days discussing things. I want to get the benefit of those guys' opinions too."
Beyond that, Beane said it's much too early to consider non-tender candidates -- "That doesn't have to be done until December," he said, "and I haven't even done my Christmas shopping yet" -- and available players on the lot.
"Every year has attractive free agents, some more than others," Beane said. "I would suspect there are some players that a lot of teams would have interest in. But as far as our interest in individual players, looking at the overall makeup of the team from this point going forward, what we can conceivably have in terms of budget will obviously be considered."
Beane, at least, is thankful he won't have to reach out for pitching, as the club is expected to retain Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden (arbitration-eligible) so long as one doesn't have to be sacrificed for that needed power.
"You never know in the winter what's going to be available to you, and with pitching you're always on the lookout for, but the idea that that it's not at the top of the list is nice, particularly in our market," Beane said. "We set out to create an organic pitching staff, and by and large, we have."