OAKLAND -- There's always potential for intrigue in a typically unpredictable A's offseason, even more so following a disappointing season that not only resulted in a last-place division finish, but also the worst record in the American League.
There's plenty of work to be done, setting up a winter that figures to be anything but mundane, and that starts with narrowing a roster that currently includes seven players on the 60-day disabled list.
But which direction the A's go from there is a mystery. Earlier this year, after trading Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard and Ben Zobrist at the Trade Deadline, then-general manager Billy Beane spoke of a long-term plan and gearing up for the future -- which typically translates to sacrificing a season or two, maybe more, before contending again.
However, Beane and Co. have made a habit out of fielding competitive teams most seasons, and just because they've restocked their farm system with recent trades doesn't mean they won't make deals to better themselves in the short-term, too.
Rotation:As decimated as the A's starting staff was by season's end, it stands to be their biggest asset come 2016 -- so long as health is on their side. Led by ace Sonny Gray, the group will also include youngsters Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt, all of whom impressed enough when healthy this year to warrant a rotation spot. Parker would love to join them, but there's no telling whether the right-hander -- rehabbing from elbow surgery that came on the heels of his second Tommy John procedure -- will be able to defy the odds and start again. Plenty of depth remains in lefties Sean Nolin and Pomeranz, along with right-hander Chavez. Another righty, Griffin, could enter the conversation if healthy. Griffin spent most of 2015 on the disabled list battling a shoulder injury following his return from Tommy John. Also keep an eye on Sean Manaea, the A's No. 3 prospect as ranked by MLB.com, who was dominant at Double-A Midland following his trade from the Royals in the Zobrist deal.
Bullpen: The weakest link of the 2015 club, Oakland's bullpen could see vast turnover this winter. The A's will at least retain their reliable closer, Sean Doolittle, who will make $1.58 million in the second year of a five-year deal. Rookie Ryan Dull showed promise in a setup role, and right-handers Otero and Rodriguez could play prominent roles, as well, with a consistent spring showing. Ditto Abad and Pomeranz, should the A's decide he's best suited for the bullpen. R.J. Alvarez struggled to command the zone in his rookie season but remains part of the current mix.
Catcher:2015 regulars Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley made for a nice platoon behind the plate, with Vogt posting the best offensive numbers of his career in his first All-Star campaign and Phegley reaching a career high in games played (73) in his first season with the A's before suffering a concussion in late September. Both will be back, but the A's could potentially bolster the depth behind them. Rookie Carson Blair made his big league debut in September, but he saw his opportunity cut short by left knee surgery. Jacob Nottingham, the key player in July's Kazmir trade, is ranked as the A's No. 8 prospect but has yet to play above the Class A Advanced level.
First base:Davis received the bulk of playing time here before suffering a hip injury that required season-ending surgery, which makes him a non-tender candidate. With Davis unlikely to return, Mark Canha is the favorite to assume first-base duties on most days next year. Vogt could see time there, too, when not catching, and so could Jake Smolinski -- a natural outfielder -- with added work at the position. Max Muncy is also an option, though the corner infielder is expected to add second base and the outfield to his resume while playing winter ball in Mexico. MLB.com's No. 2 A's prospect, Matt Olson, who saw time at first base with the big league club last spring, isn't considered far off from making his debut.
Second base: Lawrie finished the season here after controlling third base in the first half, and it's unclear which position the A's believe him to be best suited for in the long-term. The same could be said of Marcus Semien, whose athleticism could lead to a position change next year, with second base a possibility. Sogard remains a viable backup option if tendered a contract in his second year of arbitration eligibility, but all eyes are likely to be on prospect Joey Wendle in Spring Training after the second baseman hit .289/.323/.442 with 10 home runs and 42 doubles in 137 games for Triple-A Nashville after he was traded from the Indians in exchange for Brandon Moss.
Shortstop:Semien made a Major League-leading 35 errors in his first season as an everyday shortstop, but only seven came after the All-Star break, a nod to his improvement in the second half of play. The A's have yet to commit to Semien as their shortstop for next season, though, and could look for other options through trades or free agency while prospects Franklin Barreto and Chad Pinder continue progressing down on the farm.
Third base:Valencia immediately impressed with his bat after the A's claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays in August, influencing them to play him at third base on an everyday basis and move Lawrie to second. Valencia's consistent production in the middle of the lineup likely earned him the chance to hold down that spot again, but with much of the rest of the infield in flux at moment's time, there's also the possibility for change.
Outfield:Reddick is expected back in right field after he enjoyed his first full healthy season since 2012 and led the A's in several offensive categories, and Billy Burns, who entered AL Rookie of the Year conversations with an outstanding season following his May callup, should be back in center. There's less certainty in left field, where nine players saw time this season. With Coco Crisp's health in constant flux, the A's can't rely on the veteran as their everyday man, meaning an assortment of players could be in the mix to help hold down the position -- among them, Smolinski, Canha and Sam Fuld.
Designated hitter:The A's signed Billy Butler to a three-year, $30 million deal in November to be their full-time designated hitter, and while the veteran underperformed in his first season in green and gold, his job will remain the same come 2016 unless the club can find a trade partner and is willing to eat some of his contract.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.