Could Oakland A’s manager Mark Kotsay ditch his A’s cap for a San Francisco Giants cap this offseason?
Kotsay isn’t against it.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call on Tuesday morning, Kotsay sounded like he was open to the possibility, but his focus is on the present. And presently, he works for the A’s.
“I’m cemented in this organization and in this relationship with (general manager David Forst), for sure,” he said. “I’m not one to walk away or think about quitting at all. Seeing this through is something David and I have talked about.
“Obviously, there may be opportunities that arise in the future. One was mentioned (in the media) with the Giants. I think for me, sitting here today, my focus is with this organization.”
Kotsay is in the unique position of coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons but still being viewed as a well-respected manager and someone who could be better served while leading a club with legitimate aspirations to contend.
Forst said Kotsay and his staff “did an incredible job this year of finding positives and looking for things to work towards in order to keep this group going.”
Kotsay isn’t expected to be held accountable for an ultra-thin A’s roster that has gone 110-214 (.340) in the two years under his watch. The team has played with only a handful of veterans while going primarily with a crop of young players, few of which have been considered top prospects.
Entering the season, the A’s had just a single prospect, Tyler Soderstrom (No. 34), in Baseball America’s top-100.
“From a coaching standpoint, our objective is to stay positive through this process,” Kotsay said. “We understand where we’re at with the roster, the youth that’s on the roster… Our priority becomes teaching.”
In April, Kotsay’s A’s set a new MLB record for most losses while going 5-23.
Through 55 games, the team was 10-45 (.182), the worst record through 55 games by any team in the last century.
But Kotsay’s insistence on positivity and ability to find the silver lining in even the darkest of moments gave them a glimpse of hope.
“That was the message from the beginning,” he said. “April was a very difficult month, probably the most difficult month of my baseball career. As a competitor and a leader, really searching down deep to figure out how to keep this group from going negative and how to improve. That was to dive in and teach as much as possible, stay as positive as possible and focus on the small victories.”
They turned things around in June and went 40-67 (.374) the rest of the way, more than doubling their winning percentage through the first 55 games.
Among the successes include the 28-year-old journeyman Brent Rooker hitting 30 home runs, Esteury Ruiz stealing 67 bases, Trevor May overcoming anxiety issues to collect 21 saves and 23-year-old Zack Gelof making his big league debut on July 14 and then posting an .840 OPS, 19th in the league from that point on.
“Going from five wins in April to having 11 wins in September says we had the right mindset, kept the right culture and continued to focus on those small positives that at the end of the day you can find some joy from,” Kotsay said. “But in no way would I talk about this season as a successful one.”
Forst said it wasn’t easy for anybody to watch the team finish with most losses in the league while also finalizing the details of a move to Las Vegas in 2028. MLB owners are expected to vote on the pending move in November.
“Mark probably downplays the impact it had on him and the coaching staff and the players, but I was there, I sat in the stands, I know what it was like out there at times,” the GM said. “For those guys on the field and in the dugout to be able to focus on what they’re doing – and they did. Nobody is oblivious to what’s going on in the stadium and in our organization, but they did an incredible job of focusing on the game.”
Will next year provide just more of the same as the A’s play what could be their final season at the Coliseum before their lease expires at the end of 2024?
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Forst promised it would be different. He insisted the team would be contending for free agents this offseason.
“We are not going to shy away from free agency,” he said. “We have a lot of talent here but also have holes to fill.”
But he wouldn’t yet say if the payroll would increase from an MLB-low $57 million on Opening Day.
“Those conversations are still ongoing,” he said. “I don’t have that answer yet. I’m confident we’ll have money to spend in free agency.”
Surely, A’s fans won’t be holding their breath.
“I think the passion of Oakland A’s fans was incredible and on full display this season,” Forst said. “I’ve been here for 24 seasons now. I have a lot of friends who are fans. I have family in the community, I interact with fans all the time and I’m very aware of how much people care about the team and how much they were affected by the events of this year. They did an incredible job over the course of the year displaying that passion, inside and outside the stadium.”