Athletics

Evaluating A's free agents in 2018 MLB offseason: Jed Lowrie

Evaluating A's free agents in 2018 MLB offseason: Jed Lowrie

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's free agents to determine which players are most likely to return in 2019.)

Jed Lowrie was obviously a huge part of the A's success in 2018. At the age of 34, the Stanford product had a career year, slashing .267/.353/.448 with a career-high 23 home runs and 99 RBI.

Lowrie was a mainstay in the middle of Oakland's lineup, batting third in 146 of the team's 162 games. He also led American League second basemen with a .993 fielding percentage. For his efforts, Lowrie was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.

"Jed had an incredible year," general manager David Forst said. "At 34 years old, to have the offensive season he did and to set such a great example for the rest of the lineup -- obviously (he) will be a big part of our conversations over the next month."

Lowrie earned $6 million in 2018 on a club option. He will turn 35 years old in April.

"Jed has been an underappreciated player for a long time on this club," executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said. "He's been around for a lot of wins. He's had some great years. People don't talk nearly enough about him. Even the league doesn't. It was really satisfying... to see him make the All-Star team this year."

Why the A's should re-sign him

Even though Lowrie is rapidly approaching 35, he has never played better baseball. Over the past two seasons, he has proven to be a consistent run producer in the middle of the A's lineup. He has also been a great veteran presence in the clubhouse, showing the younger players what it takes to be successful at the major league level.

Since Lowrie is already in his mid-30s, he doesn't figure to receive a long-term contract from any club, likely making him affordable for the A's. Something in the range of a two-year, $15 million deal could make sense for both sides. Oakland would get to keep its 3-hitter without breaking the bank, while Lowrie could stay in the Bay Area with a chance to reach the postseason again.

Why the A's should let him go

The biggest reason to let Lowrie go is the presence of 22-year-old Franklin Barreto waiting in the wings. The A's are still very high on their talented middle infield prospect, and at some point he will need a chance to play a full season in the bigs.

Barreto spent the 2018 season going back and forth between Oakland and Triple-A Nashville. He showed his power potential with five home runs in 73 at-bats for the A's and 18 homers in 282 at-bats with the Nashville Sounds.

"He came a long way this season," Forst said. "He had a really good year in Nashville and showed some stuff up here when we needed him. ... He's got a lot of fans throughout the organization who think he's going to be an outstanding major league player. So he'll be part of any equation that we have about next year's club." 

Verdict

While Barreto is the future, Lowrie is still the present and there's a good chance he will return to Oakland in 2019. The A's proved they have what it takes to win now, and keeping Lowrie's bat should be a priority. Lowrie was a major part of Oakland's chemistry this season and his leadership would be difficult to replace, along with his productive bat.

Lowrie is also a fan favorite, and the A's could use all the fan support they can get right now. Allowing another All-Star to leave Oakland would be hard to justify, especially if he wants to stay. All things considered, it seems more likely than not that Lowrie will still be in an A's uniform next season.

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

The A's are at the MLB Winter Meetings with eyes on providing manager Bob Melvin with even more options to fill out his lineup, but it's not as if he doesn't have plenty to choose from already.

Whether it's the starting rotation, the infield or the outfield, Oakland possesses great depth at many positions, and a lot of that depth is young.

Both Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk made their long-awaited debuts for the A's last season, and Melvin told NBC Sports California that both are expected to be in the starting rotation when the season commences. Just how many players are a member of that rotation remains to be seen, however.

"I think anything is possible for us," Melvin said of the rotation. "We like to get a little bit creative. I think ideally guys like to be in a five-man rotation, it allows them to prepare. But whether it's the piggybacking-type thing, whether it's a six-man rotation for a period of time ... anything creative I think we would potentially look at, but I think as we go into the season right now, we'd probably look at a five-man rotation to start."

One would imagine that both Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers have been earmarked for two more spots in the starting rotation, as might Frankie Montas. Melvin also mentioned players like Chris Bassitt, Daulton Jeffries and James Kaprielian as additional pitching options.

That depth extends to the infield, as well. The A's were so confident in their second-base options that they felt comfortable trading the versatile Jurickson Profar to the Padres. Between Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse and even Chad Pinder, Oakland has several bodies to consider pairing with shortstop Marcus Semien in the middle of the infield. The trouble is, each of them bats right-handed, as does the vast majority of the A's current lineup. That doesn't seem to concern Melvin too much, though.

"I think we're always looking potentially for another left-handed bat in a little bit of a right-handed dominant lineup," Melvin explained, "but we're comfortable with the guys we have right now and we feel like we have multiple options."

The A's manager went on to admit that, in a perfect world, Oakland would be able to add a few left-handers, particularly considering the abundance of dominant right-handed starters in the AL West. The Angels reportedly are pursuing Gerrit Cole, and he could be the best of the bunch. The A's are aware of what their competitors are doing at the Winter Meetings, but they have reason to be confident.

[RELATED: Why Yankees offering Cole $245M is good for Giants, A's]

"We keep an eye on the teams in our division," Melvin said. "We keep our eyes on every team in the league, but at the end of the day, it's about what we can do to enhance our club and make our club better. You're talking about a club that's won 97 games two years in a row, so we feel pretty good about where we're at."

The A's already possess a deep roster, but perhaps with an addition or two, a deep playoff run could be in store.

A's Billy Beane reveals he has Kyler Murray on his fantasy football team

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AP

A's Billy Beane reveals he has Kyler Murray on his fantasy football team

SAN DIEGO -- Kyler Murray still has a fan in Billy Beane.

After Murray spurned a potential MLB career with the A’s to play quarterback in the NFL, Beane admits that he still holds a fondness for his former prospect and enjoys watching the now-Arizona Cardinals QB play football. 

“I love it, I text him -- he’s on my fantasy team,” Beane said at the MLB Winter Meetings on Monday night. “I texted him, I said ‘I gotcha again.’ He texted me back and just gave a big heart.

“He’s a great kid.”

Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations, was paramount in Oakland selecting Murray with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, believing the dual-sport athlete would thrive as a speedy outfielder at the big-league level. The A’s signed Murray to a contract with a $4.66 million signing bonus, which also allowed him to continue playing football that fall at Oklahoma.

But Kyler put on a show for the Sooners on the gridiron and never looked back. Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy, throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns and running for another 1,001 yards with 12 scores.

After months of speculation about whether he would declare for the NFL draft or continue his commitment with the A’s, Murray decided on Feb. 11 that he would focus entirely on his football career, forgoing baseball.

[RELATED: How Forst thinks state of free-agent market will affect A's]

The Cardinals took Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, making him the first player in history to be drafted in the first round of both the MLB and the NFL drafts.

Murray has had a strong rookie campaign for Arizona, throwing for 3,060 yards and 16 touchdowns, with 448 yards and four more TDs on the ground.

So with those solid numbers, here’s the question we all want to know: How is Beane’s fantasy team doing this season?

“First time not making the playoffs,” Beane said with a laugh.