Oakland A's Notes: Off-Season In Flux

The Oakland A's have big decisions looming, and they're not about specific players or possible moves. The front office must decide if the club still can contend with the current core group of players, or if the A's must begin to add pieces and to restock what is a depleted farm system.

General manager Billy Beane said that health ultimately will decide what path the team takes this offseason.

"It's hard to say which direction we're going in this winter, because of the health issues we've had," Beane said.

"A lot of things will be dictated by that (health) prognosis. Realistically, we might have a better idea at the winter meetings (Dec. 3-6)."

If the A's had any sort of inkling that they might have injury problems similar to last year, when they used the disabled list 22 times, or that any key player or players might not be at full strength, then the team might be more of a seller than a buyer this offseason, dangling starter Joe Blanton (and possibly even Dan Haren) in order to bring in some premier prospects.

If Beane is convinced, however, that Oakland can make a run at the AL West with the current roster, he'll be looking for depth this winter -- and perhaps that long coveted right-handed power bat. A fourth or fifth starter is on the wish list, but plans to make Justin Duchscherer a starter might lessen that need.

If Duchscherer wins a spot in the spring, the A's rotation (barring injuries or trades) would look like this: Haren, Rich Harden, Blanton, Chad Gaudin and Duchscherer. That might mean a bullpen role for lefty Dan Meyer, who is out of options, or lefty Lenny DiNardo, who spent a lot of last season in the A's rotation.

--GM Billy Beane has talked to Greg Genske, who represents A's free agent OF Shannon Stewart, and both sides have interest in further talks.

"We've been in touch, but it's early in the process for them and for us," Beane said. Stewart, then coming off two-plus seasons of foot injuries, signed a $1 million deal with the A's last winter, but his price tag is expected to go up after he remained healthy all year and performed well in the leadoff spot, batting .290. It's also thought he might want move closer to his home in Florida. Assuming everyone is healthy, the A's already have three starting outfielders: Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay and Travis Buck.

--Another Oakland free agent, DH Mike Piazza, is considering retirement, but his agent, Dan Lozano, did not return calls asking for an update. GM Billy Beane said he has not heard anything about Piazza's plans. It would be in Oakland's best interest if Piazza remained active; like OF Shannon Stewart, he is a Type B free agent, and the A's would get a compensation pick if he signs with another club. Because of the compensation picks, the A's are likely to offer both Stewart and Piazza arbitration.

--The team clearly would not want to go to arbitration with Piazza, who is not a likely fit for next year's roster, but considering that the A's honored Piazza's unofficial no-trade agreement last year when they did have an opportunity to move him, it's hard to imagine Piazza accepting arbitration -- especially with a club that would have no real role for him.

--OF Jeff DaVanon also is a free agent. He was picked up for outfield depth late in the season, and Oakland has not shown interest in re-signing him.

--GM Billy Beane, an avid European soccer fan, is making a trip to London at the end of November, and he has meetings scheduled with officials from several clubs and plans to attend at least one match. The A's ownership group also holds the rights to San Jose's soccer franchise and is re-establishing the team.

--RHP Colby Lewis agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with the A's, but days later he was claimed off waivers by the Royals.

--The Sacramento River Cats will be announcing their 2008 manager and coaching staff at a press conference on Thursday. Longtime Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco was hired by the A's to be their third base coach, opening up the manager's position in Sacramento.

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