The A’s ensured they will be entering the 2014 season with an offensive-proven shortstop for the first time in many years with the arbitration-eligible signing of Jed Lowrie last week.
With the departure of shortstop Stephen Drew at the end of the 2012 season, the Oakland A’s were once again in a void for a permanent shortstop and had high hopes with untried Japanese player Hiroyuki Nakajima to fill the hole. The middle infield position had for years seen a lack of production from the likes of Cliff Pennington, Bobby Crosby, Adam Rosales and other “utility players” tested in the role. Since saying goodbye to former 2002 MVP and free agent Miguel Tejada in 2004, A’s shortstops have been less durable and less offensively productive the past few seasons.
Seeing this void, General Manager Billy Beane went out and acquired Lowrie and righthander Fernando Rodriguez in a five-player February 2013 offseason trade with the Astros offering outfielder Chris Carter and two others. The transaction paid off for the A’s as Lowrie, 29, turned in his first full healthy season in the majors that had also seen time with the Red Sox before he was an Astro.
The switch-hitting Lowrie proved himself at the plate in 2013 batting .290 (tying the Oakland record for batting average by a switch-hitter) with 45 doubles, two triples, 15 homers and 75 RBIs. His 45 doubles was second-best in the AL and rank second in Oakland history behind Jason Giambi’s 47 in an MVP 2001 season. Lowrie’s 122 OPS+ was the highest for an A’s shortstop since Tejada produced 128 in his MVP season of 2002.
Not since the left side duo of Eric Chavez and Tejada does the current combination of Lowrie and third baseman Josh Donaldson compare in overall extra-base numbers. Lowrie’s 62 extra base hits made him the first Oakland Athletic to lead all MLB shortstops in the category. Combined with Donaldson’s 64, the sum equated to a total of a quarter of the team’s overall extra base production. Not since ALDS attaining seasons where Chavez and Tejada cleared 25 percent in 2001 and 2002 and topped 27 percent in 2003 have the A’s had such production from the left side of their infield.
Lowrie played 119 games at shortstop, 24 at second base and 13 at designated hitter last year. Defensively, Lowrie had 16 errors at shortstop, third in the AL for 2013, but his range is above par and he works well as a double play combination with Eric Sogard turning 53 double plays last year. His glove should get better with experience and play.
Say what you want about prospect Addison Russell waiting in the wings, with the A’s investment in Lowrie at $5.25 million (he will earn more than double what he made in 2013), he has earned himself an everyday role with Oakland this upcoming season.
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