LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A's manager Bob Geren is never short of opportunistic words. He's a glass-half-full guy by nature, a trait that seemingly always carries over into his meetings with the media.
So it was only fitting that Geren, when speaking with reporters in his manager availability session at the Winter Meetings on Monday, spoke enthusiastically about his club's offseason progress and its potential for more.
"I think that we had a very good finish to our season, very strong," Geren said. "We just needed a few extra pieces to get us right into contention, and we're on our way to doing that."
The largest addition thus far came in the form of trade product David DeJesus, who not only adds stability to the outfield but promise to a lackluster lineup. Though DeJesus often found himself at the top of the lineup while with the Royals, Geren said he'd like to keep speedster Coco Crisp in that slot and would consider DeJesus and Daric Barton as interchangeable options in the Nos. 3 and 4 holes.
"With DeJesus, that's adding another top-of-the-lineup, middle-lineup-type hitter to our team that is fundamentally a sound player on every phase of the game, which is important to us," Geren said. "Our defense was so good last year, that it really solidified our pitching staff. So when we have players to be able to do what he can do defensively, along with the added offense, and good baserunning, we've got an all-around well-rounded player to add to our lineup."
Further additions, preferably in the form of a designated hitter, are expected for a team that still lacks the offense necessary to allow Oakland to be more than a one-dimensional pitching team. Chris Carter, brought to the Majors at the end of the 2010 season, offers the A's the most potential in that DH spot as the team stands now. But he's only 23, so there's speculation surrounding his readiness for such a role.
"We need somebody in that spot that's going to create some power, and he's a good hitter," Geren said. "If he lands in that spot, that's a possibility. But having some flexibility where he can play the outfield first and do some DH'ing just makes his opportunities greater."
General manager Billy Beane, when broached of the topic later in the day, appears to want to take the cautious route with Carter -- mindful of all of the youngster's growing abilities.
"Ideally, a kid that age, you wouldn't like to put him in a DH spot," Beane said. "And he's a good athlete, which is one of the reasons we're sort of looking at other options. It's nice to have a talent like that, but I don't know that if you put him in there at that age you're fully taking advantage of him as a prospect. He still has some things he needs to work on, certainly defensively."
Finding room in the outfield may be rather difficult, though, as Ryan Sweeney is expected to join DeJesus and Crisp. Conor Jackson is also in the mix, leaving Carter's status for the coming season up in the air.
"He just has to kind of create his own spot, come in and show that he's ready and create something," Geren said.
Part of that readiness is being healthy, something the A's as a whole have struggled to accomplish in recent years. Following a season in which the club utilized the disabled list 23 times, a new trainer was recently brought in to aid in the process of ridding itself of the injury bug.
"I really believe that we're going in the right direction with the players," Geren said. "Their offseason conditioning and different followup visits that we're getting, we're staying on top of things to the point where we're giving them every opportunity to be as strong and healthy as possible."
To that end, Geren noted that Sweeney (right knee), Andrew Bailey (right elbow), Josh Outman (left elbow), Joey Devine (right elbow) and Cliff Pennington (left shoulder) are all coming along well with their respective rehab programs. Pennington, who had surgery following the conclusion of the season, may be limited in activity at the start of Spring Training, but should be at full strength by Opening Day.
"We've had some unfortunate luck with injuries the last few years," Geren said. "Every team goes through them. We've been on the high end, so hopefully we'll be on the low end next year and you'll see a difference in the win-loss column because of it.
"The health costs us some wins, without a doubt, so if we are a healthier group going forward, and we had a little bit more offense to keep pace with how well our pitching did, it would make a big difference, sure. "