Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A’s, but money may get in the way (Getty Images).
A month ago, the A’s had high hopes of being able to sign Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera with the idea that he could slip into the Oakland starting lineup at second base, freeing Ben Zobrist to move to left field.
But as time as gone on and Major League Baseball has not moved to make Olivera eligible as a free agent, more competition has come on the market. Olivera has had group workouts for scouts, and he’s had individual workouts, but for the moment, that’s all he can do.
The workouts have given rise to the belief that the Dodgers, the Padres, the Red Sox and the Yankees all have interest. More than that, they all have money.
“It seems like the A’s are going to get priced out of the competition,’’ a source said. “There are teams out there that can simply outbid Oakland.’’
The Dodgers are in particular a concern. First-year Los Angeles general manager Farhan Zaidi went south from Oakland this winter with a history of thinking about the game the same way A’s general manager Billy Beane does. And he has money to spend that Beane and the A’s don’t.
Hector Olivera, at the plate in 2010 for Team Cuba, could be a good fit for A’s.
In the aftermath of the A’s season-ending loss to the Royals in Kansas City, I mentioned that in looking forward, Oakland might want to take a close look at Cuban free agent second baseman Hector Olivera.
A dozen weeks later, with the calendar ready to morph from 2014 to 2015, it’s time to revisit that hypothesis and expand on it.
The A’s have made wholesale changes and will have an almost entirely different infield going forward than the one that served them the last three seasons or so. The exception is at second base, where Eric Sogard, a good defender coming off a miserable offensive season, returns.
That’s if the roster doesn’t have any more turnover. However, the A’s have both a history of post-Christmas trades and money to address deficiencies thanks to their three-month spree in which the Oakland roster has gotten both younger and less expensive.
The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A’s camp and leaves open more possible moves.
You have to wonder what’s next for the A’s.
Billy Beane & Co. have spent the last six weeks stocking up on young talent, most of it pitching, including right-handed starter Jesse Hahn and right-handed reliever J.R. Alvarez who are the newest additions with Derek Norris having been traded to the Padres Thursday night.
Already five of the seven players the A’s had at the All-Star Game this season are off the roster, and as Norris told me Thursday night, it seems like the A’s “are looking to rebuild’’ heading into 2015.
Norris may be right about that, but it seems more than a little possible that Beane is loading up for one big swing between now and the start of spring training. With Matt Kemp off the block now, the biggest bats known to be available are outfielder Justin Upton of the Braves and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.
Eric Sogard is the only remaining member of the 2014 A’s infield still with the team after free agency Jed Lowrie signed Sunday with Houston.
In trading Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija this off-season, the A’s have made it very clear that they are going younger in 2015. And, as a byproduct, they are seeing their payroll obligations much reduced.
But they A’s were willing to chase at least one expensive free agent, Padres’ third baseman Chase Headley, this time around. I wrote about the possibility when the Donaldson trade went down. And when the third baseman signed a four-year $52-million deal Monday with the Yankees, Ken Rosenthal of Fox confirmed via Twitter that Oakland had indeed made a competitive offer for Headley early on.
While no one now will get from the A’s as much as they were willing to offer Headley, the A’s still have money to spend in free agency.
But despite the rumors that persist on the internet, Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang will not be one on the Oakland shopping list. Kang was posted Monday, but at the winter meetings, A’s general manager Billy Beane made it clear the A’s were not interested.
John Jaso wants to be back with the A’s, but doesn’t know if a trade is in his future.
It’s possible that the A’s have done their damage at the 113th Winter Meetings and will cool their heels the rest of the week, but it’s not a solid bet.
Oakland still has at least one other player the A’s might consider moving, catcher John Jaso. To be sure, general manager Billy Beane is a huge fan of Jaso, who works the count, has a habit of coming up with timely hits and who is an on-base machine.
On the down side, he’s had concussions the last two years that have taken him out of back-to-back stretch drives with Oakland. Doctors have given him the go-ahead to resume catching.
“I think that’s ancient history now,’’ Jaso told me Tuesday morning. “I’m moving on, starting my workouts and I’m ready to go. As of right now, I’m still planning on taking up catching again, whatever team I’m on.’’
The A’s added to their stockpile of first base possibilities for the 2015 season Sunday, trading with the Pittsburgh Pirates to get Ike Davis.
In dealing to get Davis, who was designated for assignment by the Pirates three days earlier, the A’s sent international slot position 27 to Pittsburgh while getting international slot spot 86 in exchange.
This means Oakland, which had to designate outfielder Andrew Brown to open space on the 40-man roster for the left-handed hitting Davis, has less money ($270,000 less) available to spend on international free agents without penalty while the Pirates have that much more.
The A’s front office just lost a key man to a general manager’s job with Farhan Zaidi going to the Los Angeles Dodgers as GM, a move that was made official Thursday.
“Our goal now is to find the next general manager hire,’’ A’s GM Billy Beane said Friday morning.
In the last dozen years, the A’s have lost three high-ranking members of the front office to GM jobs, J.P. Ricciardi to Toronto after the 2001 season and Paul DePodesta to the Dodgers just before the 2004 season in 2004 and now Zaidi.
And that doesn’t count the ongoing requests from other clubs interested in hiring away Beane’s top lieutenant, David Forst. Forst, the A’s GM-in-waiting, has opted to stay put and is in his 15th year with the organization.
It will be interesting to see if the A’s move quickly to fill the void left Tuesday with the news that assistant general manager/director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi will be moving south to take over as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Zaidi, who has been working as part of the A’s brain trust for the last 10 years, will be named Dodgers’ GM by Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman later this week, has been a key adviser of A’s general manager Billy Beane for the last five years.
The Philippines-born Zaidi, 37, was given the title of assistant general manager before the 2014 season, his fifth as the director of baseball operations.
David Forst, the long-time presumed heir to Beane, remains as the club’s assistant general manager. He has been with the A’s for 15 years.
Still, Beane has been used to being able to call on a small group of long-time dedicated baseball pros, including Forst, Zaidi, director of player personnel Billy Owens (16 years), director of pro scouting Dan Feinstein (the last three years and a stint from 1994-2004), director of player development Keith Lieppman (23 years) and director of scouting Eric Kubota (30 years).
Sean Doolittle’s intercostal strain, putting him out for 18 games in August and September, rattled the A’s bullpen.
Had they advanced to the American League Division Series against the Angels, the A’s likely would have been heavy underdogs.
That has nothing to do with how the A’s played the Angels this season, but because of the personnel Oakland would be able to put on the field.
Center fielder Coco Crisp suffered a hamstring injury not long before the A’s suffered a 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Royals in Kansas City. Catcher Geovany Soto jammed his thumb in the first inning and had to come out of the game in the third.
Manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday the injuries were not short-term.
“We would have had to go without Coco and without Soto in the next round if we’d gotten that far,’’ Melvin said.
There are problems with success, as the A’s are discovering.
Win consistently, and the expectation is that you will continue to do so.
Best the best and playing at less than your best level raises eyebrows.
And in the big leagues, have the best record and you’ve got virtually no chance of claiming a player on waivers.