OAKLAND -- With a disappointing Wild Card loss behind them, the A’s will shift focus to their offseason to-do list.
Topping that list is figuring out their shortstop situation.
Jed Lowrie is scheduled to hit free agency, and he might command interest for a multi-year deal on the open market. He’s looking forward to his first experience with free agency, but says he isn’t closing the door on the A’s if there is mutual interest.
“I’m really open to any possibility,” said Lowrie, 30. “I really enjoyed my time here. I enjoyed playing for Bob (Melvin). I’m certainly open to that possibility, and I think it’s something that I’d be interested in talking to them about.”
The A’s have no in-house everyday shortstop replacement should Lowrie leave. Veteran Nick Punto will be back next season, as his $2.75 million option vested based on days spent on the major league roster this season. General manager Billy Beane had good things to say about Andy Parrino defensively, but neither he nor Punto would be considered a suitable everyday shortstop.
Beane also talked up highly touted prospect Daniel Robertson, a 20-year-old who played at high Single-A Stockton this season but who won’t be ready for the bigs in 2015. Besides Lowrie, other free agent shortstops are expected to include Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera.
The A’s most high-profile free agent, of course, is left-hander Jon Lester, considered one of the top two or three players on this winter’s open market. It’s a given he’ll be signing elsewhere.
“I thank the A’s organization for believing in me and trading for me,” Lester said. “It was a privilege to play with these guys. It’s a great group of guys who put their balls on the line every single night and competed.”
The A’s also face a key decision with free agent catcher Geovany Soto. He showed enough after being acquired from Texas in late August for the A’s to consider trying to re-sign him. If he leaves, the A’s would have Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt as in-house options, with John Jaso a possibility if he gets cleared to catch after suffering multiple concussions. Manager Bob Melvin said it’s Jaso’s call as to whether he wants to get back behind the plate again.
Other A’s free agents are infielder Alberto Callaspo, outfielder Jonny Gomes and right-hander Jason Hammel.
Melvin said he felt bad about veteran designated hitter Adam Dunn not getting into Tuesday’s Wild Card game. It was Dunn’s first playoff game in a 14-year major league career, and much hoopla was made over the fact he finally made it.
Melvin opted to start Brandon Moss at DH against the Royals – Moss homered twice and drove in five runs – and the manager said the right situation didn’t present itself to pinch-hit Dunn. Melvin also stressed that with the A’s leading 7-3 in the late innings, for a while he was assuming that Dunn would get his shot to play in the AL Division Series against the Angels.
“I have so much respect for Adam Dunn that it kills me that he did not get into that game,” Melvin said.
Tuesday’s game went well into the night in Kansas City, and Dunn was still wearing his uniform in the A’s clubhouse around 1 a.m. He indicated to reporters that he’s leaning toward retiring after leaving the door open on a possible return. Dunn’s 462 career homers are tied for 35th with Jose Canseco on the majors’ all-time list.
Beane gave a thumbs-up in his evaluation of Melvin’s work this season.
“When you have a season like this with so many challenges, it’s great having a guy like Bob in the dugout, somebody that represents the organzation well,” Beane said. “We’ve had three years where we made the playoffs, with three different personalities to the year.
“The postseason is terrible for a manager. He only has one result that’s good -- if he wins. The only moves that are good moves are the ones that work. I thought he set up a good lineup (in the Wild Card game). There’s not much more he could have done.”
Melvin said he would like to bring his entire coaching staff back in 2015, though he knows it’s possible that bench coach Chip Hale gets consideration for one of the managerial openings around the majors.
[RELATED: Report: Dunn still plans to retire]
Vogt will undergo surgery on his injured right foot that kept him from getting behind the plate after early July. Melvin said that whatever specific procedure Vogt has, he is expected to be full strength by spring training.
And Melvin believes a healthy return from Vogt will help the A’s next season as far as limiting the opposition’s running game. The Royals stole a whopping seven bases in Tuesday’s Wild Card win over the A’s.
“It has to be (a focus) because it was an Achilles heel for us,” Melvin said. “Wherever your deficiencies are, you have to take a look at them and try to improve that, because it affected us.”
Soto suffered a left thumb injury that knocked him out of Tuesday’s game in the third. Center fielder Coco Crisp left with a late-game hamstring injury. Melvin said he didn’t think neither would have been available in the A.L. Division Series had the A’s advanced, meaning Bryan Anderson would have been the No. 2 catcher behind Norris.