After trading Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has conceded to the word “rebuild” to describe the plan in place. It’s a term he has been reluctant to use—preferring “reload,” “retool,” or “representative product” in the past.
This shift in tone signals two things. On the one hand, Beane and A’s general manager David Forst have convinced A’s president Dave Kaval that they have a plan that will work and I believe Kaval is someone who will insist he be able to understand it, or else he’ll find someone who can give him a plan he can understand. On the other, Kaval and the money behind him have convinced Beane and Forst that they’re not again crying wolf (Wolff?) with promises of a new stadium to come lest they be left holding the bag when it comes time to call for free agents or contract extensions.
Beane’s past reluctance to “rebuild” hasn’t been out of any disbelief in the rebuilding process. You just can’t do it with only homegrown talent, and Beane believes he can’t get the free agents he would need to complete the rebuild until he gets a new stadium. It’s not always a lack of money that keeps free agents away—players like Edwin Encarnacion and Chase Headley have reportedly turned down big offers from the A’s—it’s the facilities themselves.
Since his promotion to general manager, Forst has typically been the one tasked with press duties after major transactions, so it’s notable that Beane himself came out to address the direction of the club. From the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser:
This is not something Billy Beane has said before: pic.twitter.com/tkwH1zTr0W— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 16, 2017
The year 2021 is a realistic Opening Day for a new A’s stadium. At that point, the current set of rookie call-ups would be hitting their last pre-arbitration or first arbitration years, with a loaded farm still behind them. In that vein, the A’s can start marketing a brand new facility to free agent targets just as today's wave of new call-ups like Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto, and Ryon Healy are hitting their peak years.
Lest you think you’ve heard this all before, just remember that Dave Kaval is not someone who will suffer through bad years without a plan he is convinced will work. Kaval was the one who ended John Doyle’s term as San Jose Earthquakes general manager after eight years, and he ended Frank Yallop’s run as head coach just a year after winning the Supporters’ Shield for the league’s best regular season record, citing a changing MLS and the need to take the team in a new direction.
And so A’s ownership has asked Dave Kaval, Billy Beane, and David Forst to jump off a cliff with the A’s all-in on every front in asking for their fans to trust them. Dave Kaval cannot break his promise of a stadium timeline by the end of the year. Billy Beane and David Forst cannot blow this rebuild. Missing on one would merely be the latest blow to fan trust. Miss on both, and I could not see how the franchise’s future, much less this trio’s, would ever recover in Oakland.