Athletics

A's likely not done dealing after getting Lowrie from Astros

jed-lowrie-astros-swinging-usatsi.jpg

A's likely not done dealing after getting Lowrie from Astros

Expect Jed Lowrie to be in the A’s lineup on a regular basis in 2016.

Where that will be remains the key question, but the answer figures to materialize by the time the A’s report to spring training.

After Oakland reacquired the switch-hitting infielder from the Houston Astros on Wednesday for a minor league reliever, A’s general manager David Forst did not indicate specifically where Lowrie will fit in the lineup, just that he will play regularly. Forst and manager Bob Melvin told Lowrie as much over the phone Wednesday morning.

“Exactly where, we’ll figure it out,” Forst said on a conference call with reporters. “But he’s too good an offensive player to not be in there every day. Obviously, he plays a very good third base. We talked to him, at times here, about playing second, and he plays short. His versatility is (a strength).”

It’s a strong bet that the A’s look to trade an infielder to clear a logjam, with second baseman Brett Lawrie and third baseman Danny Valencia as possible candidates.

[RELATED: A's reacquire Lowrie from Astros]

Lowrie, 31 -- who the A’s acquired in a previous trade from the Astros before the 2013 season -- served as Oakland’s everyday shortstop from 2013-14, hitting a combined .271 with 21 homers and 125 RBI. He left Oakland and signed a three-year $23 million contract with Houston before the 2015 season, and he’s owed a guaranteed $15 million over the next two seasons, including a team option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.

“Jed is as versatile a guy as you can have in the infield,” Melvin said. “He’s played all our positions, he switch-hits. He’s productive, so I think any time you can bring a Jed Lowrie in, it’s beneficial to the overall state of the team.”

Lowrie has played the large majority of games over his eight-year career at short. Right now, that position belongs to Marcus Semien, who committed a major league-high 35 errors last season but showed improvement in the second half defensively and has gotten backing from both the front office and Melvin as a player who can continue to improve there. Ron Washington will return as the A’s infield coach in 2016, and after the work he put in with Semien last season, the team may want that process to continue.

Forst was asked specifically during his conference call if he still viewed Semien as his starting shortstop.

“He’s a shortstop,” the GM responded, though at a different point in the call Forst added: “Part of Marcus’ value is his versatility and ability to play everywhere. Last year he played exclusively shortstop, but we know going forward as we build the team he has played the other two infield spots and played them well.”

Even before Wednesday’s trade, it’s known that there had been discussion within the organization this offseason about the possibility of dealing Valencia or Lawrie. Valencia could have value based on how well he hit after taking over third base when the A’s acquired him in August. Lawrie could be attractive to teams because of his age – he turns just 26 in January – and the fact he played in 149 games last season after injuries plagued his four-year stint with Toronto. One major league scout told CSN California earlier this offseason that he envisioned Lawrie as a good trade candidate.

Were the A’s to deal one of them, Lowrie could slide into whichever position gets vacated, second or third.

Lawrie and Valencia are eligible for salary arbitration this winter, with mlbtraderumors.com projecting Lawrie for a $3.9 million salary and the 31-year-old Valencia at $3.4 million.

To get Lowrie, the A’s sent 23-year-old minor league reliever Brendan McCurry to the Astros. A 22nd-round draft pick in 2014, the right-hander is 3-3 with a 1.37 ERA and 29 saves in 67 career appearances split between Single-A and Double-A. He was ranked as the A’s No. 30 prospect by mlb.com.

To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated reliever Daniel Coulombe for assignment.

In another noteworthy move Wednesday, the A’s released right-hander A.J. Griffin, who had been designated for assignment Friday.

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

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AP

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

The AL powerhouse Houston Astros have long been suspected of stealing signs, but new information came to light Tuesday.

In a feature from The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported that the Astros used a camera in center field during their 2017 World Series run to help steal signs electronically.

Yankees star Aaron Judge summed up the report succinctly.

A's pitcher Mike Fiers was on that Astros team, and earned a World Series ring of his own. Now with Oakland, he not only confirmed the setup of technology but also commented on how it was affecting the game. 

“I don’t know if we really had any hard proof, but I’m sure there was (some evidence of other teams’ conduct),” Fiers told The Athletic. “Going into the playoffs, we had veterans like Brian McCann -- we went straight to multiple signs (with our pitchers). We weren’t going to mess around. We were sure there were teams out there that were trying certain things to get an edge and win ballgames. I wouldn’t say there was hard evidence. But it’s hard to catch teams at home. There are so many things you can use to win at home.”

Fiers then added how there were some players who didn't like it, as they would prefer not to know what was coming. But clearly, there were guys that benefitted as well.

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said. 

After the story was released, the Astros released the following statement:

A former player told NBC Sports California on Tuesday most teams participate in stealing signs in some fashion, but the Astros flirt with the line of what is legal and what is not.

"The Astros are super talented," the player said. "But ... they will do whatever they need to do to get an edge."

[RELATED: Daniel Hudson potential trade target for A's]

"In my honest opinion, they got beat by their old bench coach Alex Cora," he continued. "He knew all the Astros secrets, weaknesses, everything. Then, this year it seemed like the Astros only hit well when pitchers were tipping pitches. It happened with [Stephen] Strasburg the first two innings of Game 6. He cleaned it up in between innings and Houston couldn't hit him."

"Teams steal signs, it's been happening for years," the former player added. "Astros take it to another level."

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MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

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USATSI

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

Stephen Vogt could be staying in the Bay Area after all. But the catcher might choose a reunion over the option to continue wearing a Giants jersey.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday morning that the A's have contacted the agent for the free-agent catcher.

Vogt, 35, proved to be fully healthy after what was once seen as potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, Vogt was one of the Giants' most reliable bats this past season. 

The veteran catcher signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February, and went on to be a steal for San Francisco. He played in 99 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBI as a spot starter and backup to Buster Posey. Vogt also played seven games in left field last season. 

Vogt became somewhat of a cult hero over his four-and-a-half seasons in Oakland. He broke through as a 30-year-old for the A's in 2015 when he made his first of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. 

The left-handed hitting catcher had a .255 batting average with 49 homers in 458 games with the A's. Even as someone who turned 35 on Nov. 1, he could be the perfect fit for an Oakland reunion. 

Adding Vogt likely would be the end of the Josh Phegley era. The A's have one of the best young catchers in the game in Sean Murphy, and could pair the 25-year-old right-handed hitter with Vogt, a veteran lefty. 

[RELATED: Vogt's championship desires might hinder Giants return in 2020]

Vogt could start games here and there behind the dish, as well as at DH, play left field and even first base, while being an incredibly serviceable bat off the bench. He hit .325 with two homers in 43 games off the bench for the Giants last season.

At this stage of his career, Vogt has one thing on his mind: A World Series ring. The A's could fit his desires while keeping him in the Bay Area on the team that truly gave him his first chance.