DALLAS -- Though the window has been kept open for Hideki Matsui's possible return to the A's since season's end, Oakland general manager Billy Beane all but officially closed it Monday at the Winter Meetings.
Speaking to local reporters from his hotel suite, Beane fielded a question about the club's designated hitter situation and Matsui's presence in that role, proceeding to answer by way of what's becoming a familiar tune.
"We could find another young guy from outside that could fill that role, but I think more than likely it will be a young player, even if it wasn't someone from our current roster," said Beane, who is essentially embarking on a rebuilding process. "I think we have enough options there. I've said this before, but most of our free agents, it wouldn't surprise me if none of them were here. I think we'd first like to have that answer come from within."
Making Beane's list of internal candidates were Chris Carter, Brandon Allen and Kila Ka'aihue. Carter, once considered the team's top prospect, has disappointed at the big league level thus far, posting a .167 average with 41 strikeouts in 39 games.
"He's a guy we know looking at his history in the organization, he takes his lumps early on, and it takes him awhile to feel like he belongs," manager Bob Melvin said Monday. "At every level, except for the big league level at this point in time, he's broken out and hit. That's part of the evaluation process with him, as well. Is it going to happen at this level? And how long is it going to take?"
Allen, another potential power bat, hasn't showcased consistency at the plate, either, but will also be in the first-base mix. And Ka'aihue, acquired in September, is a career .216 hitter with a .683 OPS in parts of three Major League seasons.
"We have a lot of guys who could conceivably go into that DH role," he said. "It's a matter of one of those guys sort of grasping the opportunity and running with it."
The 37-year-old Matsui, meanwhile, is fully expected to play in 2012, despite establishing new career-lows in nearly all offensive categories in 2011. Interest from other teams, though, likely won't surface until the more coveted names -- David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Jason Kubel -- are off the market.