Beane lays groundwork in Las Vegas

Beane lays groundwork in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- The A's did plenty of talking at the Winter Meetings, and there's no telling what those talks might lead to in the days, weeks and months before Spring Training opens in mid-February.

But as general manager Billy Beane and his top aides were leaving Las Vegas after picking up an outfield prospect in the Major League phase of Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft, they did so with largely the same roster with which they arrived at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino on Monday.

To call the trip to Sin City unproductive for Oakland, however, would be to ignore Beane's post-Meetings history. What happened with the A's in Vegas most definitely will not stay in Vegas.

Not pulling the trigger on a deal here doesn't mean that Beane didn't find a few rounds of ammo and get locked, loaded and cocked.

The A's didn't make any major announcement at last year's meetings in Nashville, Tenn., either, but not long after the meetings they announced the blockbuster deal that sent ace Dan Haren to the D-backs and yielded a package of four top prospects that helped Beane get a big jump on re-stocking an Oakland farm system that desperately needed an infusion of talent.

"The groundwork was laid completely at the Winter Meetings," Beane said. "The building blocks were there."

Beane said there have been times when he went to the Winter Meetings feeling like he had to get something done while in town, using as an example the "Holy Grail" trade for Erubiel Durazo at the 2002 Winter Meetings.

This wasn't one of those times.

In Vegas, the A's continued to talk with Paul Kinzer, who represents free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, and Oakland remains very much in that mix. It's been reported that Kinzer thinks Furcal can get a deal close to the three-year, $39 million contract with the Dodgers that expired at the end of the 2008 season, and the A's are said to have offered four years and $36 million last week -- a deal that was turned down.

Kinzer said he expects Furcal, who also is being pursued by the Blue Jays, Royals and Dodgers, to make a decision by the end of next week.

"It's still an open situation," Beane said.

Beane also touched base here briefly with Dan Lozano, who represents free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera, although the interest in Cabrera is extremely mild. And while Beane would neither confirm nor deny that he's interested in free-agent lefty Randy Johnson, he did concede that he's open to the idea of adding a difference maker to what, for now, is an extremely young and inexperienced A's rotation.

And then there is free-agent first baseman Jason Giambi, for whom the market has been slow. A Las Vegas resident, Giambi had lunch with the Rays this week, but not with the A's. Don't read too much into that, though, because while Beane is interested in bringing Giambi back to Oakland, the 38-year-old slugger won't become a priority until more pressing issues have been addressed.

Without providing specifics, Beane also said he talked with several teams about potential trades, and those discussions, too, could lead to later deals. In that respect, Beane suggested, the Meetings were successful.

"We all sort of get tired staring at the four walls, but the fact of the matter is that the proximity does create more activity," he said. "I don't like being down here stuck in a room for four days, but to say it doesn't lend itself to creating deals and conversation [isn't true]. It does. We all go stir crazy, but people are here, and this does sort of force conversation.

"And conversations sometimes lead to things you might not have been thinking about before you got here. ... It might not, but to say we didn't get anything done because we didn't formalize anything is a little short-sighted."

Deals done: None.

Rule 5 activity: The A's selected outfielder Ben Copeland from the Giants organization in the Major League phase. Copeland batted a combined .276 with five homers, 46 RBIs and a .350 on-base percentage at Double-A Connecticut (103 games) and Triple-A Fresno (22 games) last season. If he doesn't spend all of 2009 on Oakland's Major League roster, he must be offered back to San Francisco.

Goals accomplished: Beane's priority going into every Winter Meetings is to gather as much information as possible, and he seemed to be confident that he'd used his time here wisely.

Unfinished business: The A's still need to upgrade their offense, and a veteran starting pitcher -- not just an innings-eating journeyman -- seems to be a new addition to their list of wants.

GM's bottom line: "I don't think we've ever gone in thinking we can't get something done, because even though maybe something doesn't happen here, it doesn't mean you haven't laid groundwork for something later." -- Beane

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.