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SAN DIEGO – Marcus Semien’s major league track record is modest, but A’s general manager Billy Beane didn’t hide what he thinks his new shortstop is capable of.
Semien is the key to the four-player package Oakland received Tuesday when it sent ace Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox. The 24-year-old Bay Area native is being pegged as the everyday shortstop, filling the biggest offseason hole for the A’s as veteran Jed Lowrie is expected to depart via free agency.
“He’s going to get the opportunity to play every day,” Beane said as the second day of the four-day winter meetings wound down. “He’s got a chance to be a guy who plays shortstop and hits 20-plus home runs. That’s pretty unique in this game.”
Semien, who attended St. Mary’s High-Berkeley and played at Cal, has hit .240 with eight homers over 85 career major league games. But should he fulfill the potential Beane speaks of, the Samardzija deal will go down as a score for the A’s. As things stand, two scouts who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they weren’t sure the A’s got enough bang for their buck considering Samardzija was one of the more highly regarded pitchers on the trade market.
But the A’s like the haul they got, which includes right-hander Chris Bassitt, corner infielder Rangel Ravelo and catcher Josh Phegley.
Beane has now dealt three All-Stars in the past two weeks – third baseman Josh Donaldson, first baseman Brandon Moss and Samardzija – and received nine prospects in return, providing depth and boosting a farm system that was thin in the upper ranks.
Having freed up a good chunk of money through those trades, Beane indicated Tuesday that he and his staff will now look to swing moves to improve the current squad. That will be music to fans’ ears.
“I think now we’re looking to add,” Beane said. “Not to say we couldn’t make trades, but I don’t think they would be perceived as dramatic as these (recent ones) might have been.”
Manager Bob Melvin certainly talks like a man who expects his team to contend in the American League West in 2015.
“We’re looking to compete again,” Melvin said. “This isn’t something where we’re breaking it down and moving in a different direction. The players we’re getting back we like.”
It seems possible the A’s could revisit the free agent market after they made an early offseason splash by signing designated hitter/first baseman Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract. It’s also conceivable somebody off the current roster could be dealt to acquire another player to help the current team. Perhaps catcher/first baseman John Jaso could entice a team looking for a left-handed bat. The A’s have first base depth and, with Phegley’s addition, some reinforcement behind the plate too.
They won’t break the bank with any move, obviously. But there are areas that could be targeted. Asked specifically about second base, Beane praised his current players there – Eric Sogard and Nick Punto – but added that there’s “still unfinished work possibly.”
It’s also been speculated the A’s could try going after a third baseman and shift recently acquired Brett Lawrie to second – a position he’s played in the past. But both Beane and Melvin have said the current plan is to leave Lawrie at third.
The bullpen might be an area to add to but only for depth purposes – Beane said he likes the back end of his relief corps even with the expected departure of free agent Luke Gregerson.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the A’s look into a bargain-priced starting pitcher being that Beane stated he’d like eight to 10 potential rotation pieces heading into spring training.
The offense will get a boost if Semien can provide pop. The question mark is whether he can handle shortstop defensively on an everyday basis. Semien has played the position regularly in the minors, but his range isn’t considered great and he’s primarily played second and third over his 85 major league games.
“He has the ability to play so many positions,” Beane said. “That’s sort of the perception -- that he can’t play (shortstop) -- but that’s more because he’s got the skills to play second and third. And he can go to the outfield.”
Bassitt will join the fight for a rotation spot and Beane didn’t rule out Phegley – a skilled defensive catcher – entering the big league picture at some point next season. Ravelo played mainly first base last season but the A’s feel he has the potential to handle third and will likely see time there at Triple-A next season.