OAKLAND — 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.