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Billy Beane Visits AN: Offseason Edition Part II

This offseason has been an unusual one for Billy Beane. Thanks to several moves he made, the team freed up enough salary to sign Esteban Loaiza and make a trade for the mercurial Milton Bradey. He's made these moves without significant subtractions from the team for quite possibly the first time in his tenure.

Billy Beane discusses this offseason now here in Athletics Nation. If you missed Part I of the interview, you can find it here.


Blez: Many people, including people on AN and elsewhere, thought that there was a chance that Daric Barton might get a shot with the team this past September with injuries and performance. Was that ever a consideration?

Beane: I think we're always evaluating the minor leaguers who've had good years. You go over every one of them. We never got to the point where we thought it was in our or Daric's best interest to call him up in the month of September. Any player who is having a good year at Double-A is a consideration. I think rational minds took over and thought it was better for him to be going to the fall league. It would probably be putting too much responsibility on a 20-year-old kid to expect him to come up here and be an offensive savior for us.

Blez: The big question on everyone's mind this offseason has been the Barry Zito situation. That has seemed to come up repeatedly and more than anything else in what you've talked to the media about and the rumors. Can you say definitively that Barry Zito will start the season as an Oakland Athletic?

Beane: It wouldn't matter if I said it definitively because I'd still get the question tomorrow. (laughs) As far as Barry's concerned, we would have to be so excited about any deal that we would make with him that the entire Athletics Nation would be excited as well. So, to answer your question, it would be very difficult for us to consider that. Once again to say definitively, would only allow people to ask the question again tomorrow because it doesn't matter what you say. In this job, the day you start saying things definitively is the day you aren't really doing the job to the best of your ability.

Blez: I would have to assume that you haven't gotten any offers that would blow your socks off for Z because he is still with the team.

Beane: Yeah, Koufax and Drysdale and Warren Spahn haven't been offered in any deals.

Blez: (laughing) How do you feel about the offseason so far?

Beane: I'm very happy with it. This is one of the first years and probably the first year I've had as a general manager that we've actually added and haven't had significant subtractions from the team. We're very excited about this team. I stay away from getting too excited because on paper, it doesn't mean anything. But I think, in our opinion, it was a very good team with what we had. And most of those major parts are still here and we've added more major parts. We sit here very excited right now about going to Arizona.

Blez: What was appealing to you about adding Esteban Loaiza?

Beane: I'll tell you, this guy has had an interesting career. If you look at his whole career, you might turn your head a little bit. But if you look at his last three years, and more in particular, the two and half years, he's been one of the best pitchers in the game. He finished second for the Cy Young in Chicago a couple of years ago. He had an outstanding season in Washington and he was good in Chicago for a half season before he went to the Yankees. We just felt like here, he won't be required to be a number one starter. But his performance at times indicates that he can pitch at the top of the rotation. He provides innings, he strikes guys out and since he's developed that cut fastball in the last couple of years he's been a completely different guy. We found out last year that not having depth in the rotation can be very difficult on our franchise. In May when we lost Rich and we had to start dipping into the minor leagues, it really hurt us. And allowing Kirk (Saarloos) to go into the bullpen adds that depth. So if a guys goes down, we feel very comfortable with Kirk going in there to do what he can do.

Blez: There was actually a rumor going around on the Internet that Saarloos has been dealt for Craig Wilson.

Beane: Total fiction. Never has even come across anyone's lips in this room. Someone told me that this morning, it's just amazing how these things start. Absolute fiction.

Blez: Was there a point where you were considering stepping out of the negotiations for Loaiza once it got into the $7 million a year neighborhood?

Beane: You start reaching a limit, yeah. There is certainly a breakpoint and we were probably getting pretty close to it. But that's the nature of the business and that's the nature of free agency right now.

Blez: Especially with starting pitching these days.

Beane: Yeah, exactly.

Blez: I imagine it must've hurt quite a bit to give up a draft pick.

Beane: The most difficult part of the negotiations for me was that. First round picks for us are such a critical part of this franchise's success in my opinion. Not only that, draft day is one of the funnest days as a general manager. That's one of the toughest parts. I had to make David (Forst) break the news to Chris (Pittaro) and Eric (Kubota) that we were giving up their first round pick.

Blez: That must not have gotten a good reaction.

Beane: It was tough. And Esteban's agent will tell you that I moaned about that more than I moaned about the money. (laughing)

Blez: You're probably already tired of answering this question, but there are a lot of concerns about Milton Bradley's perceived attitude problem. How much did you take that into account when you were considering acquiring him?

Beane: Obviously, some of the things that have gone on, you can't change that or ignore that. But I think it was also something we tried to investigate as much as possible. And a number of people we've talked to who have come in contact with him were very supportive of him There's no sense in talking about his talent because it's evident. He's a switch-hitting, 27-year-old kid in the prime of his career. He's a bright young man and I've had the opportunity to talk to him. People who know him all say the same things. I think you also have to take into account that it was a tough year for the Dodgers. They went through a ton of injuries. The year before they won the division with Milton. I think people need to be careful and fair, even though I understand why they do, in prejudging Milton. I know he couldn't be more excited about coming here. I talked to a number of players before the trade was made, Eric (Chavez), Kots (Mark Kotsay) and Kendall. They all couldn't wait to have this guy on the team because they know he's going to contribute to a winning atmosphere. And listen, my attitude is a lot better when we win. Believe me, if you caught me on a tough season or a tough day, I would be accused of having the nastiest of attitudes. He's a great talent, and we got some great references that he's a bright and competitive young man. He's going to fit in very well here.

Blez: Did you happen to talk with Paul DePodesta about Milton?

Beane: I didn't think it was too fair at that point, so I tried to limit my conversations with him. I didn't want to put him in an uncomfortable position. But I consulted with players, guys who played against him and stuff like that. I couldn't have gotten a great endorsement than I did from some of the team leaders we have here.

Blez: Is Milton healthy?

Beane: Yeah, he had knee surgery last year. And he was up here in Oakland last week. We got his medical reports.

Blez: Is his finger OK too?

Beane: Yeah, the issue was more his knee.

Blez: I thought he pulled a ligament in his finger too?

Beane: He had that too earlier. But the issue we were dealing with more was a knee injury. He was up here last week. If I was at liberty, the report is sitting right in front of you, but I can't let you look at that. (laughs) He's doing great. We actually had to slow him down. He's far ahead of schedule.

Blez: So he should start the season?

Beane: Oh yeah. As a matter of fact, we think he should be ready for spring training. We'll probably take it easy on him in the spring. But according to the most medical reports, he should be ready for normal activity in the spring. But we're still going to take it easy on him. Spring training is a "hold-your-breath" time of year. My first year with the team, I wanted to win every single spring training game. Spring training is something you just want to get through. Make sure guys don't get hurt and prepare for the season. I've talked with Kenny a lot, and not just about spring training, but about the season. Because we haven't had depth, we've really had to wear guys out. I think everyone is going to be cognizant of how long the season is and making sure everyone is planning on the long haul and not so much the short term.

Blez: That was something I was thinking about. When you acquired Milton Bradley, then you have three guys who can play center field in the outfield and almost a fourth because Nick (Swisher) played center coming up through the system. How appealing was that to you in thinking about getting Bradley in terms of depth? And not only that, the improvement in the defense and likely the pitching staff because of it.

Beane: All those things came into play. The fact that we'd have three centerfielders playing all three outfield positions, and actually what people might not realize is that Nick Swisher is an outstanding defensive first baseman. Not only that, it really fits his personality. If you know Nick, having someone to talk to is a prerequisite for his sanity. So having him at first base, he can work as a double agent for us. He's going to want to talk and he'll drive people nuts. They won't want to get to first base if he's there. (laughing) I say that fondly, of course.

Blez: How important was it to get Antonio Perez in that Bradley deal?

Beane: It was important. We really like Antonio. We like his bat. This is a young middle infielder and it was prerequisite of the deal.

Blez: And he can play all the positions.

Beane: Yeah, he can. We can give Chavy a rest. We're keeping in mind the experience last year. And I said it in the previous answer. We need to give guys some rest. We need to give Chavy some days off. We need to give Kots some days off. You're more inclined to give these guys days off if you're comfortable with the guys who will be in there. And knowing that Antonio played some third last year and can go in for Chavy, knowing that Milton and Jay (Payton) can go into center, it just allows for a lot of moving parts over the course of a season. It was all a part of the idea in putting this team together.

Blez: You mentioned giving Chavy a rest. He opted not to have shoulder surgery. Did he talk to you about that decision?

Beane: Eric just preferred to rehab his shoulder.

Blez: Getting back to the depth discussion, many believe that the A's will still try to sign Frank Thomas. Are you still pursuing Thomas at this point?

Beane: He's a free agent in a situation we're certainly monitoring. We'll continue to do that over the course of the next month or so and that's probably where I'll leave it.

Blez: Expanding further than just Thomas, are you still looking for a right-handed power bat or do you think that Milton can help supply that?

Beane: Right now, even in a general sense, we're not pursuing anything aggressively. I like this club. We've added some payroll already to this team. It was a team we added to. I'm not sure there is the perfect guy out there. Not only that, but anytime you acquire a player, you have to be prepared to sit someone down. With the projected nine that we have on the field and the depth we have on the bench, I'm not convinced yet that there is anyone out there that we'd be willing to extract someone from the equation right now. I'm not sure there's too many guys out there who would make it worth our while to sit someone on the bench or not have someone on the team.

COMING MONDAY: The three-part interview concludes with Billy discussing letting Scott Hatteberg go, losing his holy grail and Eric Walker's influence on the A's. The interview concludes with a discussion on Billy Beane's favorite music.