Infielder Jed Lowrie has a $6MM club option on his contract with the A’s, and while the exercising of that option has long seemed like a foregone conclusion, he’s remained a highly speculative trade candidate. Speaking to the media following the conclusion of the regular season, however (via Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle), EVP of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst instead strongly suggested that Lowrie would be back as the A’s regular second baseman in 2018.
Though A’s top prospect Franklin Barreto made his Major League debut in 2017 and could eventually push starting shortstop Marcus Semien over to second base, it seems that scenario won’t play out immediately in 2018. Barreto is, as Beane pointed out, still just 21 years of age (22 in February). He has received plenty of attention on prospects list, and he posted a strong .290/.339/.456 as one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League this year. But, Barreto hit just .197/.250/.352 in 76 plate appearances this year – a far cry from the manner in which young teammates Matt Olson and Matt Chapman more authoritatively seized spots in Oakland’s lineup moving forward – and Slusser writes that the A’s are inclined to give him further seasoning in the minors.
“You’ve got those two dynamics, which is actually ideal,” Beane said. “I want a young player to sort of push, where his performance is so good that he sort of pushes himself in. But Jed Lowrie had an absolute amazing year, one of the best years probably this side of Jose Altuve as any second baseman in baseball.”
Lowrie certainly was superb for the A’s in 2017, hitting .277/.360/.448 with 14 homers, 49 doubles and three triples over a career-high 645 plate appearances. He also turned in passable defense at second base, with both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved pegging him as only slightly below average in the field.
While a strong offer for Lowrie’s services over the winter could always alter the thinking of the Oakland front office, the comments from Beane and Forst seem to largely indicate that Lowrie is indeed a firm Plan A for Oakland in 2018. Some doubters will recall reports that the A’s wouldn’t trade star third baseman Josh Donaldson in the same offseason that he was dealt to Toronto, but those comments were made anonymously by an Oakland official — as opposed to on-record statements by the team’s top decision-makers. More recently, Beane and Forst drew a hard line in November 2015, stating on record that they could not foresee trades of Sonny Gray or Josh Reddick that offseason, and they indeed held onto them through the winter. Both, of course, were eventually traded at a later date.