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December 9, 2019
San Diego, California
Q. When you look at some of the deals that are being signed and talked about, how comforting is it to essentially have a rotation in place, maybe even six deep when you are looking at those prices for top guys?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, it would put us a little bit out of our price range, but I think here for the last several years we have been targeting where we are right now with our high-end younger guys and an exciting time to see all these guys burn any misfortune healthwise to come together and put together a rotation that could be our strongest in quite some time.
Q. Coming off back-to-back 97-season wins, how are you feeling going into next year?
BOB MELVIN: I like our team. We kinda surprised with the first 97 year, and the next year it was expected from our group. We felt like we could do that again.
It's great knowing we have a core group of guys that can do what we have done the last couple of years, and now you look at the pitching and the relievers that we are bringing back and the guys that were there last year, it's an exciting time to be an Oakland A and we feel like our best work is still ahead of us.
Q. Bob, you said when the season ended that we might have to win the division to play. In Houston there have been stories about the sign stealing. And had he confided in you any of those concerns?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, we talked about it, prepared for those type of things. There was a lot bantered about, those type of things going on. It is what it is. There is an investigation going on, and at some point in time there will be ramifications for it. I applaud him. If what has been going on and what we're reading about is going on, that's a line that's been crossed.
We'll see how it all plays out. There is going to be a lot bantered about it, certainly from the off-season and certainly throughout the off-season until there is a decision made on it.
Q. In terms of winning the division --
BOB MELVIN: That was frustration as much as anything.
Q. I know, but you guys have been right there.
BOB MELVIN: Well, we feel like we're -- two years ago now this next year we feel like coming into this next season that's going to be the goal. It should be when you have won back-to-back 97-game seasons.
Q. Were you surprised at the complexity of what you heard coming out of Houston? And like you said, it was a line but --
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, look, nothing has been decided yet, so it's tough to talk about when there is an investigation going on.
Obviously I have to say something to the fact that our guy is one of the guys that is being -- brought it to the forefront. It's been going on for years. Obviously if it happened the way it happened, MLB is going to do something about it and it probably needs to be done.
Q. Bob, who is your second baseman going into the season? What is his defensive profile? And the umbrella question, has defense at second base become any less important in recent years with more balls hit in the air?
BOB MELVIN: Typically when we shift Marcus is over there at second base. We have a really good infield defense and if we can -- we had some trouble there last year with Jerguson, even though he did a nice job for us.
If we can add another stellar defensive performer at second base we could have probably the best defense in the league, in my opinion. Right now as we sit here, Franklin Barreto, Mateo, Neuse, Pinder, all those guys are viable options for us. We're probably going to look for a left-handed bat at some point in time, and that's one of the positions potentially we could do that.
But like I said, right now the group we have, if one of those guys is our second baseman I would be happy with it, whether it's Barreto getting an opportunity he hasn't had before; Mateo is a terrific player; and Neuse did a great job for us last year being on mostly the other side of the diamond.
So anything we can add to the mix we have we're going to benefit, and we will let Billy and David do their thing. My guess is they'll bring some other guys in. Ryan Goins we signed who is another left-handed bat.
Q. And is defense at second as important?
BOB MELVIN: I think it depends on the configuration in the other positions as well. It is an important position because with all the left-handed hitters that you have in the league and how you're configuring your defense now that position comes in not only with ground balls but fly balls as well. So yes, it's an important defensive position.
Q. With three catchers on the 40-man roster, and they're all young is that a position where you would like to have a veteran guy, been around the league and has worked with big league pitchers extensively?
BOB MELVIN: I think if there is ever a position that experience plays, it's behind the plate. Murph played enough last year we feel confident in him. He has had injuries. We would have to be careful with his workload to try to get a full season in with him and injury free. So I don't think you're looking at a 140-game guy.
The other guys are younger. Heim came a long way last year. What we saw, we brought in a left-handed bat and looks more like an offense first type of catcher, but I think that's a position we will look at to maybe bring in some experience and the one position where you really have to, you know, deal with the pitching staff and the entire team.
It's a position that you want some experience and some leadership out of, too.
Q. You talk about the windows of contention sometimes the teams have. Does that concept seem different in Oakland not just because of your payroll limitations, but Billy and David seem to be creative and moving forward anyway. Is this a special time in terms of the young players that you have that are so productive and good and everything else good that's going on?
BOB MELVIN: It is. When I first got here we had good young pitching. Our position group wasn't as good as it is right now, and in the last couple years it's been more about the position player group, the young position player group, and now you're going to see Puk and Luzardo and Manaea and our pitching prospects coming together at the same time.
We've been looking forward to this window right now for quite some time. To see it all come together at the same time going into the season, albeit there is still a lot of youth is really exciting. I don't know that in my tenure here that we have had both position player group and a pitching group this talented to this point. We're all excited about that.
Q. Do you like the new rule, three-batter minimum?
BOB MELVIN: Well, first of all, we'll see, whether or not it's for sure or not. But, you know what? It's just an adjustment you're going to have to make. If that's what they throw at us, that's what they throw at us. I know our front office is looking at maybe some guys that might be out there longer, obviously, with the three-batter minimum. It was one of the reasons we signed Jake Diekman. He has a great history against right-handers, too. Everybody has their eye on that. It's not a for certainty, but if it comes our way we will deal with it. And whether I like it or not doesn't matter as a manager.
Q. (No microphone.)
BOB MELVIN: I think it depends if somebody pinch hits if you can get a bullpen arm. At the end of the inning if you can take a guy out after one hit, or I think there is still some talk about how it's deployed. As managers, it's just something you have to deal with. There seem to be nuances every year you have to deal with.
Q. David mentioned the 26th player is somebody that might be a utility-type guy. How do you look at that? Sometimes you have had three catchers, sometimes you've used extra pitchers, there was mention of a six-man rotation kind of thing.
BOB MELVIN: I think the pitching end might be capped, potentially they're talking about 13. Just depends how your team sets up, what you need and who you need to get days off to, who are the guys you are worried about running out there too much. We're lucky enough to have an infield that plays a lot. In the case of Olson and Semien it's almost uncomfortable a lot at times, but they never seem to get worn down by it. Chapman played a ton of games last year and a ton hurt last year. So I think it's nice to have an infield option, maybe a left-handed bat, that can move around and give guys time off recently that we've seen. Just be don't tell Marcus that. I hear he's in town.
Q. You saw Luzardo and Puk at the end of the season. What are your expectations for them?
BOB MELVIN: These are terrific talents, our top-two pitching prospects that we got to look at last year. In the case of Luzardo we probably made it easier on him. We knew he would roll 'em out there for a particular game. A.J. I threw him to the wolves a little bit quicker based on the needs at the time when we brought them up.
But both of them are so talented and maybe as talented as guys we've had here in quite some time. Both left-handed, both throw hard. They've got a taste of the Big Leagues so they have some experience. We're really excited about the ceiling these guys give us.
Q. There are more moves that can be made, but what are their chances of breaking into the rotation early in the season?
BOB MELVIN: I think that's what we're looking at this point. How we deploy them and how we look at maybe innings, limits. We have to get creative during the course of the season. We can do that as well, but the reason we drafted these guys where we did and traded for one, drafted another, is to be high-end starters. And you're seeing in baseball the starters kinda came back into vogue last year, and the importance of the starter certainly in the confidence of the team is paramount.
Q. As a veteran manager what do you know now about that job that you wish you knew your first job going back to the Mariners?
BOB MELVIN: The job has changed quite a bit. You just try to take and learn and learn the players and how you have to deal with the modern day players, how it was different before, the communication, everything. It's just about acclimating and being a chameleon. It's my job to acclimate to the team and the players more so than them acclimating to me the way it used to be in the past or when I came up and was playing. Sparky Anderson, guys like that were almost unapproachable guys.
Nowadays it's just the opposite. You want to make sure you have a great relationship with your players and acclimate to them and get to know them on a professional and personal level and what makes them tick and be as communicative as you possibly can.
Q. I asked Kevin Cash this, but in this day and age of $245 million deals, how do teams like you guys and the Rays with limited payrolls continue to contend? Is it creativity? Is it like a fun challenge? Can you use it in a positive way?
BOB MELVIN: I think so. One, we have to be a little bit more creative, and, two, you have to rely on your younger players. Both these teams have really good young players.
There isn't as much of an emphasis on veteran players as much as there used to be. Five, six, seven years ago it was all about give me the veteran player. Now it's poor, smart, and hungry, give me younger guys that are talented and let 'em go and let 'em play and have faith in 'em.
We have to operate that way with our budgets. The Rays do the same thing, and they've been very successful doing it as well.
Q. Bassitt had a lot of success as a starter, and moving toward the bullpen toward the end. How do you see his role into next season?
BOB MELVIN: To go through a season with only five starters is nearly impossible, especially with our younger guys, and I think he's adapted to being that guy that can go back and forth. Everybody wants to be a starter and I think last year he kinda really made his mark as a starter, too. But I think having some experience he understands he's going to do what he can do to help the team.
I thought it might be a little bit of a problem. We took him out of the rotation last year, and it was anything but. He just wanted to help his team win. He's done that role enough to where you can move him around a little bit, impact in the bullpen, length, inning or two, and I think whatever makes the team better he's all for.
Q. Acquired Austin Allen. What do you know about him? Full-time starter or...
BOB MELVIN: First, he's got to make the team. Sean Manaea is a guy that we are committed to. We brought him up in the middle of the playoffs last year. He was a high pick for us and we knew he would be a good player for us. We have to monitor his workload. And Jonah Heim is a guy that had a tremendous season for us in Triple A.
We're lucky to have three young guys that we feel good about, but there is going to be some competition on certainly who wins that second job at least as we sit here right now.
Q. Bob with your Triple A affiliate moving to Vegas in the year the ball has jumped how do you look at your Minor League levels, does it affect the hitters and pitcher?
BOB MELVIN: It does, and I think Las Vegas is the epitome of that. You look at all the OPS, and it is what it is. You're never going to be really able to compare it to the Big Leagues and the Big Leagues is a different animal to begin with, too. You have to understand that that's the way that ballpark plays and our front office does a pretty good job of monitoring it and who they think can carry over to Oakland, okay Lon is a different place to hit than Las Vegas. I think you take all that stuff into consideration and our front office does a good job of identifying the guys they think are able to take that and move on to the big league level.
Q. You and David talked about the need for more left-handed hitting. Three of your better outfielders and every day guys are right-handed hitters, obviously if pass cot tea comes back healthy, how do you see that shaking out? Could you see having an all right-handed hitting outfield or would you prefer to mix it up some?
BOB MELVIN: We still control Grossman, too, and Robbie had a good year for us, too, defensively and offensively, so I think you try to keep all these guys in the fold at this point, it would be tough to move on from any of those guys, Chad Pinder, included. We have guys that have been impactful on this team and all those guys are included in that. It's going to be a difficult scenario if we get to Spring Training and all those guys are still with us but those are good problems to have when you have too many good players.
We will monitor it, allows us to give a guy some rest, maybe allows us to play Pinder in the infield a little more, I think we're in a good position having all these guys and that's before injuries and so forth which happen over the course of the season.
Q. Veteran pitchers will sometimes have to have a personal catcher but what about a young pitcher, say you have a couple of young guys coming up and there is a guy they're comfortable pitching to in Triple A how much do you weigh that in?
BOB MELVIN: It's a variable, sure. You want guys to be comfortable. You don't want to overdo it where you're not using what you consider maybe is your best guy. That's why in Spring Training during the course of the season we try to mix it up right away. We try to get guys on every one of our catchers so they're comfortable with them, and we really haven't had a problem where a pitcher has come to me and said I need this guy. I think it's more my idea, hey, look, Murphy caught you down there, let's break in with him. It hasn't been an issue. I'm a former catcher, so I know the dynamic. I don't think that's been a problem for us, we will run our best lineup out there based on the personnel and who we are playing and the best lineup and what it is.
Q. A pitcher who won't come and say to you, I would rather have this guy, can you sense that a guy likes another catcher?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, I can and I will go to them and say hey, look, I'm kind of in between tonight you got a preference on this and that makes them part of the equation and feel like, you know, they're part of it, too. I don't do it too often, but yeah, again, it's all about running the best lineup out there in a particular day and being communicative with all your guys and letting them know where they stand and where you're going.
Q. Young hitters have raved about Eric Martins, what do you think now adding him to the Major League staff to be with those guys he's coached up for years now?
BOB MELVIN: He deserves to be here. It's hazard losing Matt Williams. Matt is not a replaceable guy. All the coaches in our system, I think we have five coaches now on my staff that were within our system and that all starts with Keith Lipman and congrats to Lip, winning the Tony Gwynn Award. There has been no more impactful guy at the A's than Keith Lipman, and every time I ask, what do you have, and the latest guy is Eric Martins, and he's been with our core group of position players, and he's a versatile guy.
Not only is he a hitting guy, when you're in the Minor Leagues there are other areas that you're in charge of and as a staff you want guys that are versatile and able to add to the party and he is definitely one of those guys. Last year I think it was Tampa that inquired about him potentially to -- about their assistant hitting coach position, and when you are getting your door knocked on about impactful coaches, you want them on the staff, and he's a great fit for us right now.
And, again, it's not only does Keith Lipman give us good players and develops good players, Eric Martins is the latest in the line of that as far as that goes.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports