Now that both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel have made their respective debuts with the Oakland Athletics, we can officially announce that the dust has settled on the July 4 super-trade that netted the A's two of the top arms on the trade market. It's a deal that has widely been looked at as a good one for both sides, with Oakland demonstrating its desire to "go for it" this season.
However, in doing so, the A's traded their top prospect in Addison Russell. While it can easily be understood why such a deal cost them such a premium talent, it has left them both without that blue chip prospect in their system, for now, but more importantly, has left them without a true shortstop moving forward. That could prompt them to explore a contract extension for free-agent-to-be Jed Lowrie.
There are some interesting quantities on the 2015 free agent list at the shortstop position, but it's difficult to see any of the really notable names coming to Oakland. Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and J.J. Hardy headline one of the better positional groups of a pretty rough free agent class. While they represent the elite of the free agent shortstops, Lowrie isn't too far behind and would likely draw plenty of interest should he get that far.
Addison Russell was expected by many to be the club's starting shortstop by the time the 2015 season opened up. Even if they had kept him, the hamstring issues may have delayed that a bit. Nonetheless, he's gone now and the A's lack a real shortstop moving forward. Lowrie is 31, but an extension for him would probably represent the best move the A's could make in this situation.
A new deal for Jed Lowrie may also come a bit cheaper given the rough go of it he's had at the plate this season. His wOBA for the year is just .295 and he's hitting only .235. However, he's also had a rough go of it in the BABIP department, as that figure rests at a paltry .262. He has shown some signs of coming out of his funk recently, though. He just ripped off five straight multi-hit games and is 11-for-24 over his current six-game hitting streak. He's hitting .333 for the month of July (small sample size of 40 PAs) and has a wOBA of .346 during that time. He also already has four extra base hits for the month, the same number he had in all of June.
Even with his offense scuffling, Lowrie has played solid defense for the A's this year. In fact, his defensive metrics, while not quite Gold Glove worthy, are the best he's posted since the very early part of his career. His 5.8 UZR per 150 innings is his highest mark since 2009. His minus-5 Defensive Runs Saved in around 700 innings is much better than last year's minus-18 in just over 1,000 frames. His play with the glove is a primary reason his WAR has managed to stay at 0.8 even with his offensive struggles.
Susan Slusser recently opined that Jed Lowrie should be settling into Oakland for the long haul. She points out the fact that their next top prospect at the shortstop position, Daniel Robertson, is at least two years away from the big leagues, if not more. As such, a two or three-year pact for Jed Lowrie would make a ton of sense. It would give them some stability at that spot while also giving them a quality option until their next "shortstop of the future" is ready to take his crack at the big leagues.
Overall, you have to look at a Jed Lowrie extension as the most logical move Billy Beane could make. He'd be an extension of the shorter-term variety, and wouldn't really cost all that much. His current one-year deal pays him just a touch over $5 million. Would he be seeing too much of a raise from that? Probably not. But with Addison Russell now a member of the Chicago Cubs organization, it simply makes too much sense to let Lowrie get away.