(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."
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.