Aug. 11: The A’s announced that Lowrie has been released.
Aug. 10: The Athletics announced a series of roster moves prior to today’s game, recalling left-hander JP Sears and selecting the contract of outfielder Cal Stevenson. In corresponding moves, righty Paul Blackburn has been placed on the 15-day injured list and infielder Jed Lowrie has been designated for assignment. Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle relays word from the team that Blackburn’s injury is an inflamed right middle finger.
Lowrie, 38, is a veteran playing in his 14th MLB season, with seven of the last nine being in Oakland. He signed a two-year deal with the Mets prior to the 2019 season, which turned out to be a disaster as mounting injuries limited Lowrie to just nine games over the course of that contract. He returned to Oakland last year and had a nice bounceback, hitting at a league average rate over 139 games.
The A’s brought him back for 2022 on a modest $850K salary, with a $100K bonus for spending 60 days on the active roster and a $150K bonus for being traded. With Oakland undergoing a massive sell-off during the offseason, it seems like the A’s wanted Lowrie aboard as a competent veteran presence amid their roster of youngsters. If he played well enough to be shipped out for prospects at the deadline, that would have been a nice bonus. Unfortunately, Lowrie has a .180/.245/.263 line on the season for a wRC+ of just 49. Now that the deadline has passed, it seems that the A’s will use the season’s final few months to evaluate younger players, with Lowrie getting nudged out of the picture.
One of those younger players getting a shot for Oakland down the stretch is Stevenson. The 25-year-old was a 10th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2018 but has since been a part of numerous trades. He went to the Astros alongside Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini in the 2019 deal for Derek Fisher. Houston then traded him to Tampa in 2020 as part of the Austin Pruitt deal. The Rays sent Stevenson to the A’s last month as part of the return for Christian Bethancourt.
The left-handed hitter has always carried himself well at the plate, posting double-digit walk rates at each of his minor league stops and always getting his wRC+ above 100, indicating above-average production. He first reached Double-A in the Rays’ organization last year, getting into 92 games, walking 15.3% of the time and hitting .254/.368/.403. That amounted to a wRC+ of 118, or 18% above average, with 17 stolen bases thrown in for good measure. This year, he’s been in Triple-A all year, split between the Durham Bulls and the Las Vegas Aviators. In 73 combined games, he’s amazingly walked in 15.3% of his plate appearances again, while hitting .275/.387/.402 for a wRC+ of 113, swiping 15 bags in the process. He’ll get a chance to see how he carries himself against big league pitching over the final few weeks of 2022, before the A’s decide how to proceed with building their roster for next season.
It’s unclear how long Blackburn will be out of action, but it seems like Sears will at least get a couple of turns in the rotation. The 26-year-old Sears was one of the players who came over from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas trade just over a week ago. He pitched in seven games for the Yanks this year but will be making his Oakland by starting today’s game, taking the place of Blackburn, who was the originally scheduled starter.