A's comfortable waiting to find shortstop
Drew, Nakajima are team's top free-agent options
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Oakland's shopping list was of no mystery heading into the Winter Meetings, yet how the club may go about obtaining its contents was.
A's general manager Billy Beane, speaking from his suite at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Day 1 of the four-day event, shed some light on the matter Monday, making clear his top options at shortstop, which remains the team's most dire and only true need. The current in-house options are backup types Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino, and Beane has no intentions of adding prospects Grant Green or Addison Russell to that mix.
Stephen Drew, with whom the A's familiarized themselves well down the stretch, and Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima are the two free-agent shortstops the team is considering at the moment. On the trade front, rumblings of the Marlins nearing a deal involving shortstop Yunel Escobar emerged, and the A's could very well be in the mix.
MLB.com learned Beane met with Marlins officials Monday, though it's unclear whether he did so to discuss Escobar, who is only owed $5 million in 2013. The 30-year-old is equipped with plenty of defensive talent and has a likeable .353 career on-base percentage, factors that make him an attractive option despite his checkered past, which includes an incident involving a homophobic slur written on his eye black.
But should the Marlins turn to a trade partner not named the A's when dealing Escobar, believed to be on his way out of Florida by week's end, Oakland will feel no added urgency to move on to other options.
"I think we're in a pretty good place to sit back and wait," manager Bob Melvin said. "I know we're really not market makers, at least in the free-agent market, that we'll sit back and see where the market's going and then kind of pick and choose. There are some places we're looking to upgrade, but we're not in a rush to make a deal we're not ready to make."
Drew, whose $10 million mutual option was declined by the A's, will surely garner significant interest from multiple clubs, given the weak shortstop crowd filling an uninspiring free-agent market. That may leave him out of the A's price range, but that doesn't mean Oakland won't try for him, and Beane was set to meet with Drew's agent, Scott Boras, "sooner than later" this week.
As for the 30-year-old Nakajima, who was posted last year but ultimately didn't sign with the Yankees, Melvin acknowledged that the club knows "quite a bit about him" and has engaged in talks about the free agent, whom he said "looks like a hitter."
The free-agent route may very well be the way to go for the A's, who are not willing to part with any of their starting pitchers -- a declaration that could rule out a trade with the Indians that would send shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to Oakland.
The pitching-heavy A's appear to be more than set with arms, despite the club's desire to bring back right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who is expected to garner more money elsewhere.
"There's been contact," Beane said. "There's still a lot of the winter left, but I wouldn't say something's imminent. I would speculate, given his talents and the lack of starting pitching out there, that he's going to be attractive to quite a few teams."
"I think that door is always open until it's closed," Melvin added. "We'll probably sit back and see what kind of offers he gets and whether or not we're able to afford him, what the guaranteed money is, what the incentives are in his deal, which I'm sure will be somewhat incentive-laden. But that door is not closed."
Beane has often left the Winter Meetings having not pulled the trigger on a single move, instead laying the foundation for deals in the weeks ahead. That could very well be the case this year, too, with an additional two months still to be had in the offseason.
"I don't think these meetings create any sense of urgency from our standpoint, because we still think there are quite a few potential options out there, whether it be trade or free agent or in-house," he said. "[Shortstop] is a critical position, and for us, we have a chance to significantly improve your club if you get the right guy. We had a few guys in and out of the position last year, so if you get the right guy, it's an area you can make a big jump on your club."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.