NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- David Forst has been with the Athletics for almost 24 years. But suddenly, the handcuffs on the Oakland general manager's ability to improve his team via free agency have become even much, much tighter.
"We have one more year left to play in our current stadium," Forst said Monday night at the MLB Winter Meetings. "Then three more years of uncertainty. And all of that affects what we can and will do on the field."
Contract negotiations with MLB players and their agents usually come down to three things: money, term and opportunity. The A’s always have been known for smaller payrolls and associated "proving ground"-type roles. But now contract terms are becoming predictably limited past 2024, when the A's Coliseum lease expires, and with relocation to Las Vegas not scheduled until 2028.
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"Specifically, when I talk to a free agent about a two-year deal, the question comes up about where we're playing in the second year of the deal, and we don't have an answer for that yet," Forst said. "We feel that in all the conversations we have."
MLB Network's Jon Morosi has covered player trades and transactions on the national level for two decades, and sees the dilemma similarly.
"It’s complicated. There's no question about that," Morosi said. "The A's now have a number of structural disadvantages. The payroll, to begin with, has never been especially high. But you add on that complexity of the multiyear question. It's real. Especially if you’re a player with a family -- these are real considerations.
"You have to give them one of two things, either certainly about role and living situation … or probably boost on the financial piece of things. That’s going to be a very difficult task for David Forst and Co."
The A’s 50-112 record last year was the worst in Oakland history, and they've lost 210 games in the last two years. Despite those struggles and their other limitations, there's no quit in Forst attempting to improve the current group of players … who have zero control over where they will play.
"We need to get better," Forst admitted. "No one has had a lot of fun the last two years."
The A's payroll, currently on paper, will be about $43 million, and they expect to begin the season "little" higher than that.
"It's a weird time for the front office," Forst said. "People have not left, at least on the baseball operations side. There's always been a lot of loyalty, and that has not changed, and I'm very appreciative for that."
"The combination of two losing years and uncertainty about the future has been hard on the people who work here."