AL West champion A’s make 3 trades in 2 days

Billy Beane is busy dealing in December once again.

In one whirlwind stretch of less than 24 hours, the Oakland

general manager pulled off a trio of trades with three different

clubs and upgraded Oakland’s bullpen in the process. Beane believes

his overall roster might be even better heading into 2014, with the

front office determined to keep the low-budget club a contender

after consecutive AL West crowns.

”In the time I’ve been here, we won the West in `12 and Billy

didn’t stand pat,” manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday. ”He always

looks to improve the team.”

First, the A’s acquired AL saves leader Jim Johnson from

Baltimore late Monday as the replacement for All-Star closer Grant

Balfour. Then on Tuesday, the two-time defending division champions

traded for San Diego right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson in a swap

that sent outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres.

That move became a viable option after outfielder Craig Gentry

was acquired from Texas earlier Tuesday with top outfield prospect

Michael Choice going to the division rival Rangers.

Oakland also is waiting on lefty Scott Kazmir’s physical to

finalize a $22 million, two-year contract.

”It’s fun. We’ve always had a pretty fraternal group,” Beane

said. ”We had some spots we needed to fill. I think we addressed

the areas we needed to and in some cases I think maybe even

upgraded, particularly when you look at the bullpen with the

addition of both Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. We all feel real

good about where we are. The next step is putting it on the

field.”

It’s been a busy couple of days for Beane and his staff to say

the least, building the 2014 team through calculated additions and

subtractions via trade. That has long been Beane’s offseason

approach – and he insists even with all of these moves he might not

be done.

Baseball’s annual winter meetings begin Monday in Lake Buena

Vista, Fla.

”I don’t think it’s in our interest to sit here and take the

winter off,” Beane said. ”There’s a lot of winter left and a lot

can happen.”

While the A’s have their starting outfield returning in center

fielder Coco Crisp, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and right fielder

Josh Reddick, Gentry provides an option off the bench and creates

depth. The returnees have dealt with injuries in recent

seasons.

Melvin and Beane have watched the versatile Gentry for years.

They also received right-hander Josh Lindblom in the deal. Texas

gets Choice and minor league infielder Chris Bostick.

The deal to acquire Johnson ”came together pretty quickly,”

Beane said, noting he was a pitcher on the team’s radar.

”As you can imagine, it was a pretty frenetic pace and we have

a lot of satisfaction we were able to pull everything together,”

Beane said.

Just in the short time since he switched teams, Johnson noticed

how active Beane and his staff have been.

”It’s a team that’s competitive and they’re making more moves

to be competitive,” Johnson said. ”They’ve been busy and they’re

trying to build some excitement. I’m excited to start a new chapter

in my career and personally.”

Melvin is thrilled to add Johnson as his closer while being

afforded the luxury of keeping his other important bullpen options

– Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Dan Otero and Jerry Blevins – in their

regular roles.

”That’s another key acquisition for us with Balfour going into

free agency,” Melvin said of Johnson. ”We did it with a proven

guy, with a track record who has 101 saves the past two years. We

could have done that with any number of guys, but this allows us to

keep these major pieces in roles they’ve succeeded in – getting us

to the ninth inning.”

And, now, Melvin will work Gregerson into that mix.

”I’m ready for anything,” Gregerson said. ”I’ve been in a lot

of different scenarios with San Diego and why should that change

now?”

Gentry could get regular starts at designated hitter or the

outfield against left-handed pitching.

Gentry batted .280 with two homers and 22 RBIs in 106 games for

the Rangers this year.

”We’ve always really, really liked this player,” Melvin said.

”Sometimes his stats don’t really indicate how he can impact the

game. He’s one of those rare guys who can come off the bench and

impact the game even if he doesn’t start it.”

Gentry is determined to do whatever he can to help the A’s win

another AL West title.

”Being on the other side of the white lines from these guys so

many years, it’s a great ballclub,” said Gentry, who feels

comfortable in any outfield spot. ”Hopefully whatever I can to

help the team keep winning and keep up their streak. They handle

themselves, they play hard. That team is exactly the type of player

I am. I think I’m going to fit in well over there.”

The 24-year-old Choice, taken by Oakland with the 10th overall

pick in the 2010 amateur draft, made his major league debut in

September and played nine games late in the season for the A’s,

batting .278 with a double and two runs scored.

As difficult as such decisions are, Beane chose to deal ”one of

our best prospects.”

”Trades are the biggest source of talent for us,” Beane said.

”We don’t have a five-year plan here, we have a one-year stadium

lease. We’re just not going to straddle the fence in what we

do.”