Jed Lowrie

Bob Melvin confident in A's options to replace Jed Lowrie in batting order

Bob Melvin confident in A's options to replace Jed Lowrie in batting order

There are few certainties in life. Death and taxes are two of them, as the cliché reminds us. A's fans enjoyed another last year: Jed Lowrie batting third in the lineup.

The infielder hit third in 146 of Oakland's 162 games last season. He and designated hitter Khris Davis formed a destructive tandem which anchored the entire A's lineup all year.

That will change this season. Lowrie signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the New York Mets this offseason, leaving the A's in search of a new No. 3 hitter.

"It's going to be a little bit of a work in progress," A's manager Bob Melvin recently told reporters in Arizona. "That spot might turn over a little bit depending on (whether we face) a right-handed pitcher or left-handed pitcher. At this point, I don't have anybody I'm penning into the number three spot like we had in the past with Jed and KD three-four. But you look up and down our lineup, it's still going to be a very productive lineup throughout."

Melvin will have plenty of options to experiment with. Stephen Piscotty, Matt Chapman, and Jurickson Profar are a few of the names who come to mind, though Chapman figures to remain in the two spot, where he enjoyed massive success last year.

Profar is an intriguing possibility because he would essentially allow the rest of the lineup to stay the same as last season. Melvin prefers that type of consistency.

"The way it played out last year, obviously Jed was important in the three spot, which allowed KD and then Oly to have his back, and Piscotty to have his back, and it worked pretty well," Melvin said.  "So I want to take a look at that. It doesn't necessarily mean (Profar) is going to get there, but if he does, it would allow everybody else to be in the same spot as they were last year."  

Another option is moving Davis up from the cleanup spot, though Melvin is hesitant to mess with his recent success.

"I think he's most comfortable (hitting fourth). We had talked a little bit about third earlier on, but I think he's pretty comfortable in the four spot. He's had some pretty good years in the four spot recently," Melvin smiled.

[RELATED: Five surprise candidates who could make A's roster]

Piscotty and Profar figure to earn the first cracks at the No. 3 slot. Both players are coming off career years, and possess many of the tools that made Lowrie so successful.

As Melvin mentioned, his lineups will likely vary based on the opposing pitcher. Either way, the A's offensive depth should make them a highly productive group once again.

Grading the Oakland A's offseason with spring training fully underway

Grading the Oakland A's offseason with spring training fully underway

With spring training now in full swing, MLB's offseason has officially come to an end.

Of course, that doesn't mean teams are done wheeling and dealing. Some of the top names in the game (hello Bryce Harper and Manny Machado!) are still available on the free agent market.

From an A's perspective, the roster is at least close to complete, with the possible addition of one more starting pitcher. With that in mind, we attempt to grade Oakland's offseason.

Starting pitching

Additions: Marco Estrada, Parker Bridwell
Departures: Trevor Cahill, Kendall Graveman
Unsigned: Edwin Jackson

The A's identified starting pitching as their top priority this offseason. Unfortunately, they have not yet improved their rotation.

Oakland signed veteran right-hander Marco Estrada and claimed Parker Bridwell off waivers from the Angels, while losing Trevor Cahill, Kendall Graveman, and possibly Edwin Jackson, who remains unsigned.

The A's are counting on Estrada to be a top-end starter, despite coming off back-to-back subpar years in Toronto. While a bounce-back season is possible, it is far from a sure thing.

Oakland did re-sign Mike Fiers and Brett Anderson, and top prospect Jesús Luzardo will almost certainly earn a call-up at some point. The A's should also get injured pitchers Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and A.J. Puk back for the second half of the season.

Oakland would be wise to bring back Edwin Jackson or sign another reliable starter in that mold. As it currently stands, the A's rotation might be worse than it was last season.

Grade: D+ (Incomplete)

Bullpen

Additions: Joakim Soria, Jerry Blevins, Tanner Anderson
Departures: Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelley, Cory Gearrin, Emilio Pagan

The A's relied heavily on their bullpen last year and it came through in a big way. With the return of All-Star closer Blake Treinen, along with several key setup relievers, Oakland's pen should once again be a strength of the team.

While the departures of Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley will hurt, adding Joakim Soria and Jerry Blevins should help negate those losses. The A's also return Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, Ryan Buchter, and Fernando Rodney, among others.

The decision to pick up Rodney's $5.25 million option remains a bit puzzling, especially with Kelley available for significantly less money. Nevertheless, Oakland's bullpen should once again rank near the top of the league.

Grade: B

Infield

Additions: Jurickson Profar, Chris Herrmann, Nick Hundley
Departures: Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Lucroy

The A's lost a lot of veteran leadership, not to mention production, in Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy. Oakland hopes that Jurickson Profar, Chris Herrmann, and Nick Hundley will help fill that void.

Lowrie amassed 23 home runs and 99 RBI last season, both career highs, with a .267/.353/.448 slash line. He was rewarded with a two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets.

Profar is also coming off a career year, batting .254/.335/.458 with 20 homers and 77 RBI with the Rangers. The A's believe the 25-year-old will build on that success this season.

While Lucroy's offensive numbers weren't great last year, he did a masterful job with Oakland's pitching staff. Herrmann, Hundley, and Josh Phegley will try to replicate that success behind the plate. Still, the A's appear to have taken a slight step back on the infield.

Grade: C+

Outfield

Additions: Robbie Grossman
Departures: Matt Joyce

The A's weren't busy in the outfield this offseason and they didn't need to be. Oakland returns everyone from last year, except for Matt Joyce, who was not a factor anyway.

The addition of Robbie Grossman adds even more depth to an already strong outfield. Grossman slashed .273/.367/.384 last season with the Twins and has a career on-base percentage of .355.

If anything, the A's might have too much outfield depth, if that's even possible. Oakland will have six players -- Grossman, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, Dustin Fowler, and Franklin Barreto -- vying for playing time in left field. Stephen Piscotty and Ramón Laureano will handle right and center.

Grade: B+

Designated hitter

Additions: None
Departures: None

The A's have arguably the best DH in baseball and they made sure to bring him back. Oakland signed 31-year-old Khris Davis to a one-year deal worth $16.5 million, the highest single-season salary they have ever paid a player.

The only reason for the A- grade here is that Oakland didn't lock Davis up on a long-term deal, though that still remains a possibility.

Grade: A-

[RELATED: Davis explains why he wants multi-year deal with A's]

Summary

Overall, the A's roster got worse this offseason, at least on paper. That doesn't mean the team can't replicate last season's success, but it will have to do so with some new faces.

Losing Lowrie, Lucroy, and possibly Jackson could take a toll on the incredible chemistry the squad developed last year. Most importantly, Oakland has not yet adequately addressed their starting pitching concerns.

The A's managed to get by with a subpar starting rotation last season. It looks like they may have to do it again this year.

Grade: C

MLB rumors: Former A's infielder Jed Lowrie, Mets agree to contract

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USATSI

MLB rumors: Former A's infielder Jed Lowrie, Mets agree to contract

When the A's acquired Jurickson Profar in a three-team deal with the Texas Rangers and The Tampa Bay Rays, it was assumed former second baseman Jed Lowrie would be going elsewhere.

Those assumptions have been confirmed.

As reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, the 34-year-old infielder agreed to a two-year deal with the New York Mets. The deal is reportedly worth $20 million.

The veteran joins a roster that already possesses a second baseman ... or two. Veteran Robinson Cano was acquired by the Mets in December, and Jeff McNeil also burst on the scene at second base last season. 

While Lowrie is considered an everyday second baseman, he has spent a little time at the hot corner as well. And according to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Mets plan on using him on an everyday basis, at various positions. Even, perhaps ... first base? That'd only happen if the club's No. 2 prospect, first base slugger Peter Alonso, isn't ready for the bigs.

Lowrie is coming off his first-ever All-Star season, where he hit .267/.353/.448 with 23 home runs and career-high 99 RBI.