DALLAS -- Though speculation surrounding a trade involving one of their big names was rampant at the Winter Meetings this week, the A's quietly exited Dallas on Thursday.
Oakland fans perhaps view this as good news, considering it means All-Star pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey -- who resided in the middle of such talks -- are still employed by the A's.
But any relief that came with that was likely met with a big sigh when news of a certain division foe's spending splurge broke through Thursday morning. The Angels' signing of not only nine-time All-Star and three-time National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols, but familiar face C.J. Wilson only further magnified the catchup journey facing the A's.
"I can't handicap what this means for the Angels," A's assistant general manager David Forst said, "but certainly when you end up with all the best players in the game in your division, that's not what you want."
Pujols signed for 10 years, Wilson for five, meaning the Angels will likely hang around fellow threat Texas at the top of the American League West for years to come. The A's, meanwhile, are embarking on a rebuilding process -- they have yet to firmly define their direction as such, but their actions make it no secret.
They entered the Winter Meetings already having essentially lost the likes of Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Coco Crisp. They also prepared to let Gonzalez or Bailey go if offered a hefty return package involving players that could help them open a new stadium in San Jose, which they're hoping to gain approval for as early as January. But the A's didn't budge in four days at the Hilton Anatole, instead electing to remain patient.
"There's no mandate to trade guys," Forst said this week. "We happen to have guys who are valuable, who have the potential to bring back players. But if you don't trade them now, and you sit here 12 months from now, they're still under control."
Bailey isn't a free agent until the conclusion of the 2014 season, while Gonzalez remains under club control through '15. Moreover, both are young and of high value, leaving little surprise that multiple clubs -- think double digits -- have inquired on both. Oakland has also received calls on more than one of its other pitchers.
"I think we're further along in our discussions and in the process than we were on Sunday," Forst said.
A deal or two, then, still isn't out of the question. The Blue Jays, D-backs and Nationals are the most recent teams to join the hunt for Gonzalez, while Bailey is likely to continue drawing interest from the Red Sox and, perhaps, the Angels, among other clubs seeking a closer.
Expect the A's to keep the lines open until the start of Spring Training, by which point they'll also need to have a better idea of what their outfield and lineup will look like to complement a premier starting staff that may or may not include Gonzalez.
Deals done: None
Rule 5 activity: Lost LHP Fabian Williamson to the Rangers
Goals accomplished: When a team exits the Winter Meetings without having made a deal, initial thinking may assume that nothing was achieved. But the A's don't see it that way. Sure, they leave Dallas with the same roster, but also with a deeper knowledge of the market -- and perhaps a future trade partner.
Unfinished business: Plenty. The A's may be on a spending hold because of their stadium situation, but they're still going to have to find a way to fill their outfield. Watch for them to wait out the market and examine a couple of low-cost free-agent options later in the winter should they not find a way via trades.
GM's bottom line: "We have a good, young pitching staff -- not just the obvious guys, but if you look beyond that. So there's been a pretty high level of interest in most of our guys on the Major League staff, as you would expect -- some more than others." -- Billy Beane