Beane biding his time as deadline nears

Beane biding his time as trade deadline nears

OAKLAND -- A's general manager Billy Beane has steadily built a reputation as a major player come trade deadline time over the past several years by annually finding a way to add a critical piece for a playoff push.

A month before the deadline, though, the 2005 A's are more concerned with getting back to .500 than they are with premature talk of a playoff push.

That doesn't mean Beane won't be a player again, however. It just means he might be looking at selling as much as he is at buying.

"We're always buyers and sellers," Beane says. "I don't think there's necessarily a distinction there, because with every buy, you're also selling. That's the nature of a trade."

Fair enough. And understand that Beane not only refuses to discuss trade talks, but he also refuses to concede that the A's are out of the American League West race.

With ace righty Rich Harden back in the rotation after a month on the disabled list and fellow young starters Danny Haren and Joe Blanton coming around, Oakland has played much better of late, and the rest of the division has done nothing to suggest anyone's going to run away and hide.

"It's June," Beane says. "There's a lot of season left. A lot of things could happen."

So as he sits back and evaluates the needs of the franchise, of which he recently gained a minority ownership stake, he's thinking about improvements both short- and long-term.

"In our [financial] situation, I think that's something we always have to do," he says. "As competitors, of course we want to win now, and we always think we'll be do something toward that end. But it'd be irresponsible on our part to not look at the future, too."

This is Beane's well-spoken way of saying, "I'm not telling you anything."

Thus, there is only speculation from around the league, and most of it involves names such as Barry Zito, Mark Kotsay and Eric Byrnes. Even Eric Chavez, who last spring signed a six-year, $66 million extension, has been mentioned in trade rumors.

The A's have an option on Zito for 2006, and as a healthy 27-year-old lefty with a Cy Young Award already under his belt, he's essentially gold on the market despite his deceptively pedestrian numbers this season.

Kotsay, one of the most underrated center fielders in the game, can opt out of his contract after the season. While he's said he'd like to stay in Oakland, his agent recently said negotiations on a contract extension have not gone particularly well.

As for Byrnes, who is signed only through this season and is in his arbitration years, he's been mentioned in rumors since December. An outfielder who can play all three positions, he's been part of a left-right platoon all year, starting mostly against southpaws. But he thinks of himself as an everyday player, and he'd welcome a move to a team that agrees.

Chavez? He has a limited no-trade and says, "I like it here. Why do you think I signed that deal?"

What Beane has cooking is anybody's guess, but what is clear is that two of the bargaining chips he figured to have at this time of year are worth next to nothing right now.

Closer Octavio Dotel, who was keeping the job warm for rookie Huston Street, is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Designated hitter Erubiel Durazo, who is rookie Dan Johnson in another body, is also on the disabled list, and the team doesn't expect him back any time soon.

"That Octavio and Ruby were going to be traded was speculation, too," Beane says. "The bottom line is that we've always looked at a number of things this time of year, and this year is no different."

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