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Strong A's nucleus could bring quiet offseason

Strong A's nucleus could bring quiet offseason

Strong A's nucleus could bring quiet offseason

OAKLAND -- Despite another premature exit from the postseason, the A's won't let Thursday's decisive Game 5 loss to the Tigers dictate their offseason maneuverings.

"We won our division doing things a certain way," general manager Billy Beane said on Friday. "We just fell one game short. I don't know that you completely try to do things differently based on coming up a game short."

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In actuality, Beane may have little work to do this winter.

Of his group of players, only two are free agents: closer Grant Balfour and 40-year-old miracle Bartolo Colon. Colon is more likely to return.

There are several players who hold club options for 2014, but even those decisions should be easy. Coco Crisp, hanging on to a $7.5 million option, will be back. So will Brett Anderson and his $8 million option, as Beane suggested on Friday.

Outfielder Chris Young ($11 million option, $1.5 million buyout) and catcher Kurt Suzuki ($8.5 million option, $650,000 buyout) probably won't be back.

Balfour, 33 and coming off a 38-save season, is expected to take advantage of the open market, leaving the A's to find a closer. The search may very well not expand outside the organization, as Beane and manager Bob Melvin both named Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook as viable options. Rising righty Dan Otero, too.

Beane said he would of course "give consideration" to re-signing Balfour, while also remaining realistic in regards to what an open market could do for him, but the veteran sounded like a man on the move following Thursday's loss.

"I'm going to let that stuff play itself out," Balfour said. "I've gone out there and given it everything I've had for three years, and now I'm a free agent again, and that possibly could've been my last game with the A's right there, a game you never want to finish on.

"It's frustrating. I'll see who wants me. You always want to be here. I enjoy my time here, and I love the guys here. But you never know what they're going to do in baseball. Just enjoy your time off for a while and see where the ball lands."

Colon, like Balfour, can go where he pleases, but there's a strong sense he wants to remain in Oakland, where the A's took a chance on him for a second consecutive year, even after losing him to a 50-game drug suspension down the stretch last season.

The 40-year-old was a steal at $3 million this year, winning 18 games for the A's while providing an otherwise youthful starting staff with a veteran presence. He has stated he will pitch in 2014.

"He's been great for us for two years," Beane said. "The fact of the matter is, you look at the numbers and what he provided for you, we'd be foolish, even this early in this juncture, to say we wouldn't have interest in bringing him back. He's great on the mound, and he's sort of a nice, relaxing personality in a clubhouse full of kids."

"I know he enjoyed his time here," added Melvin. "He liked it here. He's been a stabilizing force here, and to have the year he had here, I don't know that anyone could've envisioned that. You know he's going to go out there for you and be consistent, but to do what he did is phenomenal, especially at his age."

In regards to Crisp, Beane has a hard time not playing favorites. That's OK, because his teammates feel the same way about the dynamic outfielder, who will be 34 in his 13th Major League season next year.

"It's huge we get guys like Coco back," said Josh Reddick. "It's going to be tough to find a leadoff hitter like Coco, a guy who's completely comfortable in the outfield, a guy who has the sort of power, speed, and tracks the ball down like no other. He's going to be tough to replace, so hopefully we don't have to do that."

"It's pretty apparent we would pick up Coco Crisp's option," Beane said. "Being one of the GM's favorites, he's always been a very good player -- and my kids' favorite. He's a great talent. When you need him most, he seems to be able to come through."

Young swatted 12 home runs, but he also hit just .200 in a limited role, and his price tag is just too much for the return. So is Suzuki's, and the A's already have catchers John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt returning, anyway.

Otherwise, Oakland's roster will largely remain unchanged, though a handful of additions is always inevitable, and Beane says, "We should be able to increase payroll where it's needed."

It's currently just above $60 million.

"Most of these guys are going to come back, which is good," said Beane. "[It] means there's less to do during the winter. Most of these guys won the AL West the last two years so they're worthy of bringing back."

"We do like the nucleus we have here," added Melvin. "You're always trying to get a little better or add to the mix. It's not like our resources are such that we can go out and sign a $150 million superstar, so you have to do it within the constraints that we have, and our front office does an awful good job with our payroll of getting a team that's as competitive as we are."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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