Athletics

MLB free agency: A's potential threats for Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Lucroy

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MLB free agency: A's potential threats for Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Lucroy

Second baseman Jed Lowrie and catcher Jonathan Lucroy were vital parts of the A's success last season. Now that they're both free agents, they inevitably will draw interest from other teams around the league.

The A's obviously would love to re-sign both players, but they could face stiff competition. So, here are five potential suitors for each player, in alphabetical order:

Jed Lowrie

Angels
Los Angeles has to find some help in its lineup for center fielder Mike Trout, and Lowrie could be a good fit at either second or third base. Last season, Angels second basemen slashed just .237/.294/.374. Their third basemen were even worse at .220/.278/.369. Lowrie, on the other hand, slashed .267/.353/.448

Mets
New York is desperate for offense. Just ask Cy Young finalist Jacob deGrom, who won just 10 games despite his minuscule 1.70 ERA. Lowrie would provide a huge upgrade at third base, a position that slashed just .209/.302/.346 for the Mets last season. And oh, by the way, Lowrie's former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, just became the Mets' general manager.

Nationals
Wilmer Difo is listed as the No. 1 second baseman on Washington's depth chart despite slashing .230/.298/.350 last season. Lowrie would be a terrific addition to an otherwise solid infield for the Nationals and could help fill the void of losing right fielder Bryce Harper in free agency.

Red Sox
Boston never is afraid to spend money, and even though the team won the World Series, it undoubtedly will try to get even better this offseason. Red Sox second basemen hit just eight home runs last season with a .658 OPS, compared to Lowrie's 23 homers and .801 OPS. Expect the Sox to take a look at Lowrie for a second stint in Boston.

Rockies
If Lowrie could record 23 home runs and 99 RBI playing his home games at the Coliseum, imagine what he could do at Coors Field. Colorado has its own free-agent second baseman in DJ LeMahieu. If he leaves, Lowrie would be an ideal replacement.

Jonathan Lucroy

Astros
Houston reportedly had some interest in Lucroy last offseason, and it might take another look at him this year. The Astros have a free-agent catcher of their own in Martin Maldonado and might decide Lucroy is a better option. Lucroy also played his college baseball in nearby Lafayette, Louisiana.

Brewers
Erik Kratz was terrific for Milwaukee in the postseason, but he is 38 years old. While the Brewers still have Manny Pina, a reunion with Lucroy could make sense for both sides. Lucroy spent his best years in Milwaukee, earning two All-Star Game appearances.

Diamondbacks
Arizona's catchers slashed a lowly .189/.270/.319 last season. While Lucroy isn't the hitter he used to be, he still would provide a significant upgrade over those numbers. Chase Field also is a friendlier hitter's park than the Coliseum.

Mets
New York lost catcher Travis d'Arnaud to Tommy John surgery last season, and there is a chance the team will non-tender him in arbitration. That would leave the Mets in need of a starting catcher, and Lucroy could be a nice fit, especially working with that talented pitching staff.

Nationals
Speaking of talented pitching staffs, Washington could use a veteran presence behind the plate. Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom have combined for all of 76 hits in their careers. The Nationals might look to bring in a proven catcher like Lucroy.
 

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

"It made me feel a little lost in the world."

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history on Sept. 23, 2017, by being the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. 

He detailed that day to NBC Sports Bay Area/California in NBC Sports' documentary, "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports."

"When I got to the field, I immediately walked into my manager's office -- had a sit down with him and our GM in private, told them what I was going to do, told them how I was going to go about it -- told them my plan, reasons, and shed a few tears because it's a heartfelt subject for me ... " 

Maxwell knew the backlash he would receive, he just wasn't prepared for the magnitude of it. He received death threats -- and still does to this day.

"The fact that somebody actually took the time to find out what school my sister coached basketball at in Texas, somebody took the time to find out where my mother lived," he explained. 

Maxwell then admitted he rarely left home when he headed back to Arizona following the event. 

"I was miserable," he said. 

He didn't want to do anything. Not exercise, not even talking to his parents.

"At that moment in time, I was standing for something way bigger than myself," Maxwell explained.

Just a few weeks later, the 28-year-old made headlines once again when he was arrested at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after he allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery worker.

Maxwell told NBC Sports Bay Area/California he was in a certain mental state, and in addition to what was currently going on, he felt he needed to grab his gun in order to protect himself.

"I'm in my house, I'm defending myself, just in case this happens to be one of these crazy-ass people that are sending me threats," Maxwell said

He didn't feel like himself. Not even like a human being, he explained.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien shares mental health journey]

But now, he's freely talking about it and wants to leave his mark on the world with more than just what's going on between the foul lines.

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will play all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.

MLB free agency: Five relief pitchers A's could target this offseason

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MLB free agency: Five relief pitchers A's could target this offseason

It's no secret that the A's need to improve their bullpen. Oakland blew 30 saves in 2019, the most of any team in the majors.

With that in mind, here are five free agent relief pitchers the A's could target this offseason:

Will Harris

The A's already know Harris well from his time with the Astros. The 35-year-old has spent the last five years in Houston, posting a sparkling 2.36 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.

The 2019 season was the best of Harris' career. The right-hander went 4-1 with four saves, along with a 1.50 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. He notched 62 strikeouts in 60 innings, allowing just 14 walks.

Harris earned $4.225 million this past season and could be due a raise after his terrific performance. However, at the age of 35, he still figures to be an affordable option for Oakland.

Drew Pomeranz

The former A’s left-handed found tremendous success as a reliever this year after getting dealt to Milwaukee. In 25 games with the Brewers, Pomeranz went 0-1 with two saves, a 2.39 ERA, and a 0.91 WHIP. The 30-year-old struck out an eye-popping 45 batters in just 26 1/3 innings, while issuing eight walks.

Pomeranz pitched for the A's in 2014 and 2015, going 10-10 with three saves and a 3.08 ERA. He spent the first part of last season across the Bay in San Francisco, where he struggled mightily as a starter, going 2-9 with a 5.68 ERA. But once he arrived in Milwaukee, he became a completely different pitcher.

Pomeranz earned $1.5 million this year after making $8.5 million in 2018. His new contract will likely fall somewhere between those figures, making a second A's stint a possibility.

Daniel Hudson

A crucial part of the Nationals' World Series title, Hudson figures to be a hot commodity on the free agent market. The 32-year-old went 9-3 with eight saves and a 2.47 ERA between Washington and Toronto, striking out 71 batters in 73 innings.

Hudson also notched four saves in the postseason, going 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA. The right-hander has a career ERA of 3.83 in 10 seasons, with the first four coming as a starter.

Hudson earned just $1.5 million this year and will be in line for a significant raise. Still, the hard-throwing veteran could be worth it for an A's team in need of late-inning options.

[RELATED: Why A's, Hudson would be good fit]

Joe Smith

Smith was superb in limited appearances for the Astros this season. The veteran right-hander went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 25 innings, striking out 22 and walking five.

Smith, 35, has a career ERA of 2.98 in 13 major league seasons. The sidearm specialist has been particularly effective against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a meager .215/.278/.308 slash line throughout his career.

Smith just completed a two-year, $15 million deal with Houston and could be available for a similar price this time around. The A's would be wise to at least make an inquiry.

Steve Cishek

Cishek is coming off back-to-back stellar seasons with the Cubs. The right-hander combined to go 8-9 with 11 saves and a 2.55 ERA, registering 135 strikeouts 134 1/3 innings.

[RELATED: Bullpen upgrade is Forst's main priority]

Cishek, 33, has a career 2.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 132 saves in 10 seasons. His sidearm delivery has also been especially successful against right-handed hitters, allowing them to slash just .199/.265/.288 in his career.

Cishek earned $6.5 million each of the last two seasons with the Cubs and figures to get a similar contract this offseason. He could certainly help boost the A's bullpen in 2020.