Athletics infielders Brett Lawrie and Danny Valencia are generating trade interest, and one of the two is likely to be moved in the wake of Oakland’s re-acquisition of Jed Lowrie, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Sources tell Slusser that American League clubs are already showing interest in the duo, and she writes that Lawrie is “considered the better bet to be traded.”
Considering how long he’s been in the league, it’s somewhat surprising that Lawrie is still just 25 years of age (26 in January). One of the main pieces picked up in last winter’s Josh Donaldson blockbuster, Lawrie is controllable for another two seasons via arbitration. While his .299 on-base percentage in 2015 was certainly a disappointment, Lawrie tallied career highs in key arbitration statistics such as plate appearances (602), home runs (16) and RBIs (60), leading to a projected salary of $3.9MM from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz (a raise of nearly $2MM from this past season’s $1.925MM salary).
His sub-par offensive output in 2015 (from a rate standpoint) notwithstanding, there’s plenty to like about Lawrie. To this point in his career, he’s produced a roughly league-average batting line (after adjusting for park factors) and can handle either second base or third base from a defensive standpoint. The former first-round pick/top 100 prospect is also still young enough to be considered somewhat of an upside play. The White Sox, Indians, Astros, Padres, Braves and his original organization, the Brewers, could all use some help at second and/or third.
The 31-year-old Valencia is considerably older than Lawrie but has experience at a wider variety of positions and enjoyed a much stronger offensive campaign in 2015. Valencia, who didn’t even debut as a rookie until he was the same age Lawrie was this past season, had his best season since making his big league debut back in 2010. In 378 plate appearances between Toronto and Oakland, he batted .290/.345/.519 with a career-best 18 home runs.
While most of his damage has typically come against left-handed pitching, Valencia crushed righties this season as well (.285/.325/.556) and did so without the aid of an outlandish BABIP mark as some might have initially assumed. Most of Valencia’s career has been spent at third base, but he has experience at first base and second base as well, and the Blue Jays played him for 220 innings in left field this season, too. He’s projected to earn $3.4MM in 2016.
Per Slusser’s report, whichever player is retained will likely handle third base in 2016, with the newly acquired Lowrie manning second base and Marcus Semien remaining at shortstop. While Semien led the Majors in errors, the team feels he made significant strides, defensively, toward the end of the season. “He’s a shortstop,” GM David Forst told Slusser in regard to Semien.