Winter Meetings interview with Bob Melvin

Q. How do you see the club coming off the finish you did and what you're expected to do roster-wise off-season?
BOB MELVIN: Obviously we've been talking about center field quite a bit. We made an acquisition in right field, a good fit for a number of reasons, Matt Joyce. Just the amount of injuries we had last year had a lot to do with where we were and how we went about things, certainly in the second half of the season, with trading Reddick and trading Rich Hill.

So, you know, we're comfortable with our young starters and we feel like we have quite a few of them. We like our bullpen, our bullpen depth, the emergence of guys like Ryon Healy, certainly the year Khris Davis had and Marcus Semien at short. So Yonder Alonso is solid for us, Stephen is an All-Star again. The positions that we're potentially looking at are center field, maybe second base, depending on Jed Lowrie's condition, but Joey Wendle did a nice job, too.

I don't feel like there's too many pieces we're looking at trying to add, even though we'll probably be looking all the way up until the end of Spring Training.

Q. You mentioned center field, and of course there's a name that is around, I know you can't talk about because he's not an Oakland A, but what are things you see of Jarrod Dyson that you like?
BOB MELVIN: You look at for us, we're lacking potentially a lead-off hitter with Coco no longer there, Billy Burns no longer there, the speed dynamic, we didn't steal too many bases toward the end of the season, as well. When you're looking at potential-type fits, lead-off guy that plays good defense in center field, we've got a big park, and can run a little bit, certainly he's a guy that's being talked and we're looking at him right now. Whether that happens or not, I'm not sure, but potentially he would be a good fit for us.

Q. Last year on base percentage was a real problem. When it comes to improving that, how much can you improve, whether it's through current acquisitions, or changing the approach?
BOB MELVIN: I think everybody can get a little bit better incrementally. Now, to an extent, you are who you are, especially if you're been in the Big Leagues for a few years. Some of the veteran guys you're not going to try to completely tweak and give them a different approach at the plate. It's going to be more addition of guys, like a good starter is Matt Joyce who gets on base.

You know, it's something we've been good at in past years that last year we fell completely off the map as far as on-base goes. It's definitely a focus and a focal point this off-season to try to increase that.

Q. If, for whatever reason, you get a center fielder who is not a lead-off hitter, what are your options?
BOB MELVIN: Doesn't mean that's the only spot we're looking at this year but I thought Joey Wendle did a nice job last year in a short period of time. He had one stretch where he struggled a little bit, and he's not really known as a guy that draws a lot of walks or an on-base guy, but if you hit close to .300, you're going to run into at least .330 on base. Jed Lowrie gets on base but might not be the speed guy you're talking about, and Marcus Semien is more of a power guy and his on-base we feel like will get better, as career goes along. He's another option. Right now it's a hole for us.

Q. Is Pinder a conversation, or do you see him needing more time?
BOB MELVIN: He really started to get a little comfortable towards the end of last year and he's been a guy that's been a hitter. I think it's acclimating to different positions playing both short and second. He's been mostly shortstop in the Minor Leagues and played some second for us, and we feel comfortable with Marcus at short. Depending on what we do here the rest of the off-season, he's a guy that certainly has got a chance to make the team. Once he settles in, looks like at every level, once he gets comfortable, the bat starts coming around. He's got some pop in his bat, too. There's definitely potential for him to make the team.

Q. There are a lot of home runs this year; did that have any impact on how you managed?
BOB MELVIN: Oh, definitely. You manage the strengths of the team. So we flipped it around here the last three or four years on how we tried to do some things. But, you know, it's always nice to be one swing away of scoring a couple runs. I think it's more the on-base thing that we are looking at than potentially trying to add power. We feel like incrementally we have some power throughout the lineup like you talked about.

Q. What about defending against home run lineups?
BOB MELVIN: Defending against them?

Q. The added power throughout depth of lineups, do you need to manage differently?
BOB MELVIN: Depending on the club, when you go over your scouting report, you are aware of teams that hit the ball out of the ballpark. We feel like we have some guys that are good sinker ball guys; we have some guys in the bullpen that are swing-and-miss guys. You have what you have as far as how you defend against that, the personnel you have. And it has a lot to do with how you set up your scouting reports on guys, whether guys are pull guys or you try to stay down in the zone or whatever. But I don't think particularly we're looking to defend the home run. You're just trying to make good pitches.

Q. Who do you like hitting three and who do you like four and who do you like hitting five right now?
BOB MELVIN: I think as far as four goes, Khris Davis is probably the natural for that. And then we'll just see what the roster looks like. Stephen Vogt did a nice job in the 3-hole. He can hit anywhere in the lineup. You know, Jed can hit anywhere in the lineup.

I think it has a lot to do with what we're looking at in center and at second base. Ryon Healy is going to hit in the middle of the order somewhere. He ended up hitting third for awhile last year, too, so we have some options for that.

Q. You mentioned Khris Davis. We talked a lot in the season about the possibility of him playing the World Baseball Classic and now we talk with the people of México, they are very excited about this possibility.
BOB MELVIN: They should be.

Q. What are your thoughts about him playing the Classic and how much will it help him towards next season with the A's?
BOB MELVIN: I think more than anything, he's just excited about doing it. Any time you have a chance to play in a WBC -- and he's close to his mom, and I think that's the reason. He was actually reached out I think by both U.S. and México, and I think he's taken some pride in playing for México and his mom's heritage.

I don't know that that lends to him, you know, during the season, getting more at-bats in the spring. I think where he is right now, I don't know that incremental at-bats in the WBC is going to be good for his development or whatever. But I think it's more just the pride of playing and playing for a country.

Q. Do you have anybody else in the WBC?
BOB MELVIN: I think Ax is going to play for Canada. Hendriks is going to play for Australia. Might be a couple more. Not sure.

Q. Coming out of last spring, you were talking so much about Matt and your young third baseman -- regardless of whether he stays there long term?
BOB MELVIN: You know, one thing when you get to the Big Leagues for the first time, it's a little bit uncomfortable. It's another thing when you're playing a position that you haven't played for very long, and that just kind of shows his tenacity. He really feels like he can play anywhere, if he had to. He just wants to get his bat in the lineup. He's a tough kid. And to take to third base, which is not an easy position, as well as he did, you know, speaks to how hard he works. If Chapman ends up being there at some point in time, his natural position is first base. We also have the DH spot. We'll find a place for his bat.

Q. What's it like as a manager, when you hear your front office talking about building for the future, planning long term, when your job is to focus on the present?
BOB MELVIN: It's a long-term plan. But we've also, you know, done pretty well with some younger guys in the past. You know, in 2012, we had I don't know how many rookies on that team, it was all rookie starters, and we ended up winning the division. So we don't go in saying, okay, we're looking to the future as far as the Big League team and the 25-man roster. Once you start the season, the focus is all about winning. So our focus is to try to win as many games as we can.

Q. What's the key to getting Sonny Gray back on track?
BOB MELVIN: It was a tough season for him all the way around, the injuries and first time struggling some. So I think it's just about a fresh start for him, coming into Spring Training with knowing that this is a fresh start for him. He's got to really focus more on the success that he's had over the course of his career than last year. You know, the stuff's still there. He's still a great competitor. It's just a season that kind of snowballed against him, so I know he's working hard this off-season to put that season in the rear-view mirror and work towards what he's done the previous three years.

Q. Where is he physically?
BOB MELVIN: Physically he's good. I think it was important he got that one inning late in the season where he had to go after it hard. You can throw as many bullpens as you want but not until you get the game do you let it go. I think that was good for him.

Q. Do you know if his off-season plan or routine will be any different?
BOB MELVIN: I don't think so. The guy works about as hard as you can work. That's something we never have to worry about with him. I think his off-season plan is pretty similar to what it's been in the past.

Q. How is Jesse Hahn doing?
BOB MELVIN: There are probably some guys that at least at this point, have passed him a little bit and, I think that's motivation for him to come back and do what we saw a year ago, before last year. And that was kind of a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher that had a lot of success. He just had a tough year, too. He would have one good start and then a couple bad starts and then he had some injuries, too, and was kind of similar to Sonny's year as far as production goes.

It's not fun when you get sent down, especially if you spent a whole year at the Big Leagues the year before and you feel like you established yourself. He still has the ability. He still has the ability, so he's definitely, as far as depth goes, one of the guys we're looking to.

Q. Physically he should be okay for spring?
BOB MELVIN: Mm-hmm.

Q. The huge contract with the Mets -- you must be very happy for him because Oakland is where it all started for him?
BOB MELVIN: You knew that New York would make a push for him. Seems like a great spot for him. He's embraced there and he's done great things for them. The minute he got there, they were a different team, so I think it was important that they got him signed. And I know he's happy being there. He loves the spotlight. He likes the big city. That's a good spot for him.

Q. Rich Hill, as well?
BOB MELVIN: You look at where Rich Hill was two years ago, and then sitting at the podium the other day signing a big contract, I know he's pretty happy about that. He's an emotional guy, and I think he feels great for his family. And talk about perseverance and hard work, you go from the Independence League to signing a three-year contract like that. The commitment to himself and never giving up I think is the thing that stands out the most with Rich.

Q. Josh Reddick?
BOB MELVIN: We could sit here awhile if we go down the list, right. It seems to be a good fit for him. I would have preferred him to be out of the division. So we're going to have to see him a bunch. But he signed pretty early in the off-season, which means for him, I think he felt like that was probably the best fit for him. He got a four-year deal, which I know he was targeting, and it's a little bit closer to home for him, too. He's not afraid to wear a cowboy hat, some cowboy boots. So it's probably a good place for him.

Q. Rich Hill threw about 50 percent curveballs last year.
BOB MELVIN: Even more I think at times, yeah.

Q. Do you think we may see more of that in baseball, the pitcher using a secondary pitch that much? And the other part is in the post-season, the Indians, they threw an inordinate amount of curveballs against the Cubs. Do you think we may see that -- can you replicate that, or do you need to mix more?
BOB MELVIN: I think as far as Rich goes, not too many guys have that curveball, and, really, it can be different. He'll change arm angles with it. He'll change speeds with it. So it's not just one pitch, his curveball.

I think as far as are we seeing a change in the way guys have pitched, I think it depends on the individual and I think it depends on the team. We're talking about scouting reports for the teams that you're playing, and I think the Indians identified that at least with the Cubs, that their best chance was throwing a lot of breaking balls, curveballs in particular.

I think that's just something you figure out before the series and look at the team that you're playing.

Q. What stood out to me, though, they didn't just up their curveball usage; they really upped their curveball usage.
BOB MELVIN: Right, and I think that was more about the Cubs and their hitters. And you have to have guys that can throw curveballs. If you have a guy that throws sliders and not curveballs, you're not going to try to, for a series, make him throw something that he doesn't throw.

I think we try to teach our guys curveballs, too, because there's a bigger gap between the fastball and the curveball than there is the fastball and the slider.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
BOB MELVIN: Good. I'm glad you brought him up. When we talk about our depth, the guys we don't talk about are Bassitt and Doubront, too, are coming off of Tommy John, and they'll be ready at some point too. Both those guys are doing really well in their rehab, and they will be on schedule, I'm not sure what the date is, timing for it, but both of them are doing really well.

Q. Walker was just brought over to Arizona. What did you see out of him when you faced Seattle?
BOB MELVIN: Starts with the fastball. He's got a high-velocity fastball, upper 90s, and I think really established his breaking stuff more so than when we originally saw him thought he would throw. And then maybe was throwing a little bit too much as far as off-speed stuff and narrowed it down again, but he's got quite the ceiling.

The talk last year was that he might be at the top of the rotation behind Felix as the year went along. He's young, talented, throws hard. He's a good pitcher for sure.

Q. What's Jarrod Parker doing?
BOB MELVIN: You know what, Jarrod's still getting over his injury at this point. Whether or not -- I haven't discussed with him whether or not he was going to pitch again. I'm guessing probably not, once you go through what he went through. I think his focus is on just getting healthy and being able to play catch with his kids and so forth down the road.

Getting a little ahead of myself because I haven't spoken to him about the future, but that would be my guess.

Q. Billy was talking last night about how it's been a slow Winter Meetings, but will all of these guys getting healthy feel like acquisitions or an influx?
BOB MELVIN: For us, yeah. Maybe in general he was talking about here with the moves. You know, there were years where we've been really active here and there are other years where, maybe, set the table here and acted upon it a little bit later.

But, yeah, any time you have injuries, whether it's in the off-season or during the season, you almost feel like you're making a trade when these guys come back. We had an awful lot of injuries last year, and it affected our performance for sure. We're looking forward to getting these guys back, particularly guys like Bass.

Q. You've been asked about the A's and the ballpark situation, since last year, a lot has happened, loss of revenue sharing, Billy coming out and saying there's going to be more of a long-term deal and short term might suffer. There's more of a need obviously, an urgency, to get a ballpark for revenue's sake. That's gone away. What is your feeling now managing the team, and what are your thoughts about the possibility of a new ballpark, finally?
BOB MELVIN: Well, it sounds like, one, it's more imperative now based on the revenue sharing. But with Dave coming in, and it really feels like that this is something that's going to get done. Therefore, you change your strategy, like Billy talked about; for the first time, actually bringing guys in and sustaining them and keeping them here. That's going to be the focus. So as soon as we can get a site down and start working towards that. Now all of a sudden your strategy changes, like Billy was talking about yesterday, and, you know, you're developing guys that you hope to keep, down the road you'll be signing some free agents that you hope to sign for multiple years, and keeping a team together more so than we have in the past, and that's important to sustaining success.

We had three years of pretty good success and then had to break it down a little bit unfortunately. We saw some of these guys go away, and now we're in a different position trying to work our way back to where we were a couple years ago, and it's easier to do when you can keep guys and sustain it and keep a core group, and the teams that you've seen that have been successful the last several years have been teams that have been able to keep their guys.

Q. The Cubs just won the World Series with a lot of moving parts. I know that's the kind of game that you love. I was talking to Terry Collins the other day, and he was talking about putting Reyes in center field and other places. Do you admire the way the Cubs play, and do you think this will happen more in the Majors, using players in different places?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, you've seen versatility be more important the last four or five years. Ideally, you'd like to have four or five guys that play every day at a particular position and then maybe platooning a couple spots and have some guys that are versatile around it. It helps you as far as based on injuries, given off-days and so forth, keeping a hot hand in the lineup, and playing them in different positions.

I think a lot of teams are looking for versatile guys now to kind of augment what their core group is.

Q. With all the injuries last year, how does that change your Spring Training preparation?
BOB MELVIN: It doesn't change it at all. We have a great training staff and we feel like we monitor these guys. We just had an unlucky year as far as injury goes in my opinion. We're very careful with our guys. You look at our usage of starters, you look at we typically don't pitch bullpen guys three days in a row. We feel like we do the right thing as far as the health goes. We just had an unlucky year I believe.

Q. What did Maxwell's performance last year do to kind of thrust him into the conversation at catcher and how do you view that position overall right now?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, we have three good options at that position with Phegley coming back, and his rehab is going pretty well, too. Bruce is a guy that maybe in the season you didn't expect to see in September and a guy that came in and made an impact defensively and offensively. His framing numbers are terrific. He did a nice job with the pitching staff and he swung the bat well. His defense was always a little bit ahead of his offense and now his offense is starting to come to the forefront.

It's exciting to have a young catcher like that, especially that hits from the left side of the plate to give Stephen some days off. Stephen is a versatile guy where you can DH him some too, maybe even play him at first base on a day that Yonder gets a day off. So he allows us to move Stephen around, too. He's one of the younger guys that we're excited about and made some strides, similar Healy who was probably a little bit quicker than we thought.

Q. Depending how the off-season shakes out, could you see a situation where you kept three catchers on the roster?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, I think so.

Q. Is Chip the guy that steps in at third?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, you know, obviously we've talked a lot about Wash and what he's meant to some of these younger guys. We feel like if anybody can replace Wash, it's Chip Hale. I have a long history with Chip, probably have more time with him being a third base coach than anybody in the course of my career. He's managed, bench coach, third. He's just a great baseball guy and great instructor. When you talk about replacing Ron Washington, there are not many guys you feel good replacing him with, but we feel very good with Chip.

Q. Your shortstop, what's going to evolve with that?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, but it's keeping that routine. I think Marcus really insulates in that routine, so usually the coaches are teaching the players; it might be Marcus is teaching Chip the routine that he goes through each and every day, and I know Chip is open for that. He's already spoken to him. We'll keep Marcus on the routine that he knows now and it's good he got to spend a year and a half with Wash, so he knows the routine now and he's confident with it.

Q. You say you want bullpen depth, so do you have a Japanese pitcher on your list?
BOB MELVIN: You know what, that would be probably more of a question for our front office guys. I deal with the players that we have here. I'm not sure if we're looking at any now. I've had plenty of Japanese players in the past and they are about as easy of guys to manage as you come. I've had Ichiro, I've had Matsui, Sasaki, Hasegawa. We're open to anything that makes our team better.

Q. What do you think about Otani? What have you seen about him?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, it would be interesting to see. Probably not since Ankiel have you seen a guy that looks to be productive on both sides of it. It would be interesting to see. I don't know that much about him. Just kind of speculation and talk, but he looks to be a great athlete if he can do both.