A's must decide how young they want to go in 2017

Oakland will spend next season still in transition

A's must decide how young they want to go in 2017

OAKLAND -- The A's offseason, never boring, should bring about plenty of intrigue following a second consecutive last-place finish in the American League West.

Never stagnant during the winter months, A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and Co. will have plenty of decisions to make, beginning with a handful of non-tender candidates. Once their roster is subsequently pared down, the A's will be left to examine which parts of a mostly youthful group they want to keep in place.

The outfield is seemingly their weakest link, and the rotation, brimming with talent and depth, should be their greatest strength heading into the new year.

A's pivot during '16, usher in youth movement

Changes will surely abound, but not before the A's decide just how much they're willing to lean on a youth movement that carried them through the second half of the 2016 season.

Arbitration-eligible: RHPs Henderson Alvarez, Sonny Gray, Liam Hendriks, Jarrod Parker, Fernando Rodriguez; LHP Felix Doubront; 1B Yonder Alonso; INF Eric Sogard; OF Khris Davis; OF/INF Danny Valencia; C Stephen Vogt

Free agents: LHP Ross Detwiler, OF Sam Fuld

Rotation: The A's have a slew of rotation options entering next season. Behind Gray, who will be looking to return to form following a disappointing 2016 campaign, any combination of these options could be in play: Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Raul Alcantara, Daniel Mengden, Dillon Overton, Jesse Hahn, Andrew Triggs and rehabbing arms Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront.

Melvin on health of Gray, Manaea

Bullpen: The A's relief corps is in good shape heading into the offseason, with several key components from their 2016 group expected back -- including closer Ryan Madson, who is under contract through 2018, and Sean Doolittle, John Axford, Ryan Dull and Hendriks. Though this group stumbled at times this season, it was mostly solid and figures to be a strength for the club again.

Madson earns his 30th save

Catcher: The A's shouldn't have to spend much time evaluating this position over the winter, with three solid options already residing on their roster in Vogt, Josh Phegley and Bruce Maxwell. Vogt, eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career, will be back behind the plate as the go-to starter against right-handers, while Phegley -- on the mend from right knee issues -- handles the left-handers. Maxwell, meanwhile, warrants consideration after a strong offensive showing in the second half following his July promotion.

First base: Alonso is under club control through the 2017 season before he enters the free-agent market, and the A's are expected to at least begin the season with him at first base again. Alonso's offensive numbers left much to be desired, but his defensive value proved immeasurable, particularly with a work-in-progress Marcus Semien across the way at shortstop. Ultimately, this position will likely be reserved for Matt Olson, or even Ryon Healy, perhaps. But it's Alonso's for the time being.

Alonso's RBI single to right

Second base: The A's liked what they saw from rookie second baseman Joey Wendle in September, but they also still have veteran Jed Lowrie in tow. Lowrie underwent foot surgery in August, but is expected to be fully healthy before Spring Training. The A's could opt to trade Lowrie and stick with their younger options. In addition to Wendle, Chad Pinder and Max Muncy can also play the position.

Shortstop: Semien made significant strides on defense this year, and the shortstop also upped his power game. Just as valuable was his durability, and that figures to hold true next season, barring injury, considering Semien's desire to play every day. Pinder, who enjoyed the proverbial cup of coffee in September, will likely enter Spring Training as a backup middle-infield candidate, a role that often used to be reserved for Eric Sogard. The A's will have to decide whether to tender a contract to Sogard, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time. Sogard missed all of 2016 rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee. Elsewhere, keep an eye on the organization's top prospect, shortstop Franklin Barreto, who is expected to begin the year at Triple-A.

Semien's late three-run jack

Third base: Healy took over this position with authority in July and never slowed down, giving the A's every reason to keep him there next year. That's the plan, at least until once highly touted third-base prospect Matt Chapman is deemed big league-ready. Then, Healy could see time at both DH and his natural position of first base.

Healy's nice diving stop

Outfield: The A's will surely need to augment their outfield with pieces that can accompany left fielder Davis. Outside help is preferable, considering Jake Smolinski and Brett Eibner only did so much with an extended opportunity this season -- though Mark Canha, who is rehabbing from hip surgery, could reemerge as a strong option. Olson could see time here but likely won't immediately be ready for an everyday role, and little help resides elsewhere in the Minors. The veteran Valencia, who moved from third base to right field upon Healy's midseason arrival, isn't guaranteed back.

Davis' solo homer to left-center

Designated hitter: The A's will be paying $11.67 million for a full-time DH who won't even be on their roster, having released Billy Butler in the second season of a three-year, $30 million contract. Moving forward, expect them to rotate several players in and out of the DH slot, as they've done in the past. Davis started more than 50 games at DH this year, and Vogt and Healy figure to be options here as well, along with Canha, depending on the roster configuration.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.