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The A’s will arrive at the winter meetings having already set in motion an offseason roster makeover.
They’ve signed veteran designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year contract and pulled off a stunning trade of third baseman Josh Donaldson. Will they continue to make waves during the winter meetings, which begin Monday in San Diego and run through Thursday?
That’s tough to forecast. They might already complete another move before they even set up shop at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel. Oakland has been negotiating with Cleveland on a deal that would send first baseman Brandon Moss to the Indians. Nothing was finalized as of Saturday afternoon. But the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that if a trade does go down, it would be a one-for-one exchange, with minor league second baseman Joe Wendle a possibility to head to the A’s.
Regardless of when – or if -- they trade Moss, the A’s should figure prominently as the winter meetings rumor mill gets churning. They’ve got a prime trade chip in right-hander Jeff Samardzija, and it would surprise no one if they deal their ace at some point before spring training. The fact that executives from all 30 teams will be in the same building together for four days offers a good chance for productive discussions.
But will the A’s actually complete a move during the offseason’s headline event? Last winter, Oakland made three trades and signed free agent Scott Kazmir shortly before the meetings began. Incredibly, they kept the momentum going during the four-day event, dealing lefty Brett Anderson to the Colorado Rockies and reliever Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals.
In other years, the A’s have used the meetings to lay the groundwork for deals. In 2011, Oakland left the meetings in Dallas without completing any activity but then announced the following day that pitcher Trevor Cahill was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As for Samardzija, he could fetch the A’s a nice package of young players in return, even though the acquiring team might only have him for one season. Samardzija is set to hit free agency after the 2015 season and he’s indicated that he won’t sign a long-term contract until testing the open market.
But if the A’s intend to trade Samardzija, they might wait until at least one of the big-ticket free agent starters signs, which could add urgency for pitching-hungry teams to want to trade for a starter. Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields are the top free agent pitchers, with some reports suggesting Lester could decide soon between a handful of interested teams, including the Giants.
The A’s are in need of a starting shortstop, and if a potential trade of Moss doesn’t bring them one, perhaps a Samardzija deal would.
Will Oakland make any more additions via free agency? General manager Billy Beane has said he probably won’t sign a free-agent shortstop, but an area in which the A’s have shown a willingness to spend in past years is the bullpen.
Setup man Luke Gregerson appears headed elsewhere via free agency, and the A’s could use a quality right-hander to replace him in the late-inning mix. Some of the names they could find enticing are Jason Grilli, Casey Janssen, Pat Neshek, Francisco Rodriguez, Sergio Romo and Rafael Soriano.
Also, it’s not out of the question the A’s could look for bargains on the starting pitching front simply to add some insurance toward the back of the rotation.