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Mark Kotsay discusses A’s young roster, more at the Winter Meetings

Oakland Athletics manager Mark Kotsay met with the media Monday in Nashville at the Winter Meetings and discussed a variety of topics ranging from the state of the roster to the impending move to Las Vegas.

MLB: Winter Meetings Kyle Schwab-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics manager Mark Kotsay met with the media Monday at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. Kotsay discussed a wide range of topics ranging from the make up of the 2024 club, to the impending move of the club to Las Vegas.

The offseason began for Kotsay with the A’s granting him permission to interview with the Mets for their manager job. That job eventually went to Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza, but Oakland exercised the 2025 option on Kotsay’s contract.

“Obviously, it’s been a fun offseason so far in terms of having the opportunity to extend my contract and have my option picked up. Really excited about kind of the future here,” Kotsay said. “Being a part of this organization for as long as I have, the loyalty that this organization has and has shown in a lot of ways for us as a staff, we’ve got a lot of continuity here.”

“There’s a lot of history here with Billy and with David and with Dan Feinstein. I think it’s a great opportunity for myself to continue forward and have this future here to get things turned around.”

The A’s suffered through a second straight 100 loss season and with 112 losses, came within five of tying the all time franchise record of 117 set by the Philadelphia Athletics back in 1916. It was the most losses by an A’s team since moving to Oakland. The Athletics got a look at many of their top prospects in 2023 and that gave Kotsay the hope of a brighter future.

“If we start with names, obviously there’s some young talented players here that we’re going to have a chance to really mold and really teach and grow with,” Kotsay said. “We talk about the word “teach” a lot, and that’s something that’s really important for us going forward. We did that a lot this year. We had obviously a really rough start to a season, and as a coaching staff we had a choice to kind of put our heads down and grind through it or lift our chins and teach these kids how to play. I think we did that as a staff.”

“We helped turn the season around from what could have been a historically bad season to a bad season, right, to be honest, to take accountability for it. But the growth that we showed through August, September with players like Zack Gelof and Lawrence Butler coming to our roster, Tyler Soderstrom, along with the younger players that were there to start, there’s a nucleus here that we think we can build something with and that we’re excited about.”

Oakland made a couple of cheap, but experienced additions in Miguel Andujar and Abraham Toro earlier in the offseason. Kotsay said that Andujar will go into the spring as part of a competition for a spot in the outfield.

“I think from Andujar’s perspective probably in the outfield competing for a job,” Kotsay said. “Brent Rooker is out there. Seth Brown is out there. Like I talked about, we have Butler, Bieday, Ruiz. He’s going to have to win his spot, but excited about the opportunity to kind of bring him in and see what he is capable of doing. He’s had some years that we were excited about, and last season I think he had some injury, which impacted his season.”

Toro brings some versatility and Kotsay said that he is open to playing anywhere that he is needed.

“In terms of Toro, versatile player,” Kotsay said. “He is one of those veteran guys that’s been on some winning teams. I don’t know him personally. We’ve had a couple of conversations. He’s open to playing anywhere and everywhere. The switch hitting aspect, we haven’t had many switch hitters in our lineup over the last few seasons. Jed Lowrie was one. It obviously gives me the opportunity to have some flexibility in utilizing him in the lineup on a daily basis really.”

The A’s weren’t expected to be very active on the free agent market this offseason, but there are rumblings that they are looking for a veteran starter to add to what will likely be a young rotation. Most of the league is looking for pitching, so it remains to be seen whether that is something that will happen.

“I would like that,” Kotsay said when asked about the possible addition of a veteran starter. “But if it doesn’t happen, I’m still excited about the guys we have. Paul Blackburn has grown a lot. Went through injuries this year that kind of took away from his ability to make those 30 starts, but I do feel like he can still be a veteran that leads these young guys.”

“The excitement behind the young guys, Estes and Boyle, to name two of them that made only, what, three starts, I think, in September, there should be some momentum behind those young guys. And what Boyle was able to accomplish in his starts, that’s exciting. We can bottle that up and get 25-plus starts from him next year, I would be really excited about that.”

JP Sears, what he did this year in accomplishing the 32 starts and the durability, taking the ball every fifth day, there’s a lot of positive things to talk about. I know that the year wasn’t positive, but if we just try to extract the small victories — and I think those are some of the small victories — and build off those, we can really create a culture to believe that we can get something done this year.”

The impending move to Las Vegas and the lack of media availability for owner John Fisher and team President David Forst left Kotsay in the difficult situation of having to answer questions about the move last season. He was asked whether he was okay with being thrust out front and taking questions on something he clearly has no control over on a daily basis.

“I’m okay with sitting where I’m at in terms of in front of the media on a daily basis, which every manager has to go through,” Kotsay said. “It’s fair to be able to be asked these questions in my role and leadership. I’m a part of this process. I don’t always have the answers for you that you want, but I’ll give you the truth when I have it. This season was challenging. Not just for myself or my staff, but for the players. I don’t see that changing.”

Kotsay added that he was disappointed for the Oakland community after the results of the relocation vote were made public.

“I think sad for the community of Oakland. Sad for not just the fan base, but also for the employee base that’s had a long history here in Oakland. Yet, it’s still down the road; right? It’s still in 2028, so there’s no guarantee. But at that point you feel for those that are impacted.”