MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

A's should be stoked for Hot Stove season

Beane looking to make club a playoff contender again in 2016

A's should be stoked for Hot Stove season

The Oakland A's became an afterthought during the course of 2015, falling from their contending status of the three previous seasons into a last-place finish for only the second time in 17 years. Don't, however, ignore them in the offseason.

Just because the A's didn't clean house upstairs or change managers doesn't mean they are going to kick back and relax in the coming months.

Hot Stove Tracker

The A's do have roster flexibility. They have just three players under contract for 2015, and the total commitment is only $24.2 million, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts (Billy Butler, $11.6 million; Coco Crisp, $11 million and Sean Doolittle, $1.6 million).

Even for a small-budget team like Oakland, that's a lot of wiggle room. That's nearly $65 million less than the Opening Day payroll for 2015. That's an invitation for Billy Beane to mix and match.

David Forst did assume the title of general manager last month, but rest assured that while Beane is now executive vice president of baseball operations, he is still Billy Beane, and he is still in charge.

With Beane, there are two things that have been proven -- he is competitive and he doesn't sit still. He can't even relax in the GM suite and enjoy the game being played. Beane would rather be in the workout room, releasing his energy, watching the game on television.

That's why the A's have to be considered to be among the most active teams during the Hot Stove season. They may have what seems to be a limited inventory to wheel-and-deal, but don't underestimate Beane when it comes to finding ways to get things done.

As one general manager said about Beane, "He gets things done, because when you talk to him, he's not wasting time. He knows what he wants. He knows what he can offer. And he wants to get things done.''

And right now, there is a lot of want to in Oakland.

The best way to understand Beane is to take note of the fact the team has been to the postseason eight times in the 18 years he has been in charge, but has not advanced to the World Series.

That eats at Beane. It eats at him so much that a decade or so ago, his frustrations were exposed after a postseason elimination with his proclamation that the postseason is about luck.

Given that, it doesn't take a lot of deep thinking to realize that coming off the fifth losing season of his administration doesn't sit well with Beane.

Statcast: Athletics' 2015 season

Beane is not looking for a scapegoat. Manager Bob Melvin is coming back for another season, an opportunity he deserves, underscoring an admission that it's the product that has flaws.

And after the Royals claimed their first World Series championship in 30 years thanks in large part to a bullpen that basically turns games into six-inning affairs, the focus will be looking for those relievers that fit the description of being primed for a bounce-back year. Doolittle, himself, fits that mold.

They are the guys who have a history of success, suffered a subpar 2015, but are healthy again. And after a year where their usage was down, they are ready to regain a prominent bullpen role.

There is a lineup nucleus with DH Butler, right fielder Josh Reddick, catcher Stephen Vogt, center fielder Crisp, third baseman Brett Lawrie and shortstop Marcus Semien, who went from committing 22 errors in the first 64 games to 13 errors in his last 68 after becoming a special project for coach Ron Washington.

There is a basis for a rotation with Sonny Gray the ace, and the likes of Jesse Chavez, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman, Aaron Brooks and Sean Nolin legit candidates for the four other spots. In addition, Jarrod Parker is coming back from an elbow fracture, while A.J. Griffin was ready to return from Tommy John surgery at the start of last year only to injure his right shoulder.

With the right bullpen moves, Beane could find relief in sight after the disappointment of 2015.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.