The Oakland A’s officially have Jed Lowrie under contract for 2018 after exercising his $6 million option, the team announced Thursday.
Lowrie was one of the best stories on the A’s this year. He’d finished 2016 with horrid numbers, thanks largely to injuries that also ended his season in early August. But he finally sorted out his health issues over the offseason and returned in full force, eventually putting up the best overall performance of his career. The turnaround from boring stopgap to resurgent star was every bit as unexpected and glorious as Yonder Alonso’s, though the latter got more attention.
Lowrie, 2017: 645 PAs, .277/.360/.448, 119 wRC+, 14 HR, 11.3% BB, 15.5% Ks
Along the way, Lowrie set an Oakland record with 49 doubles. Here are some facts about doubles:
- The previous mark had been held by Jason Giambi, with 47 in 2001, and after that comes ... Lowrie again, with 45 in 2013.
- Next on the Oakland list: Chavez ‘01, Tejada ‘03, Grieve ‘98, Giambi ‘97
- However, the all-time Athletics franchise record still stands, held by Hall of Famer Al Simmons: 53, in 1926.
- Seven of the top 10 franchise spots are held by Philadelphia A’s, though Lowrie ranks second behind only Simmons.
- The MLB leader in 2017 was Jose Ramirez, with 56, but Lowrie was the runner-up.
In addition to his career-best hitting, Lowrie settled in at second base on defense. He’d shifted there from shortstop in 2016, but this was his first full year at the keystone — he wasn’t a plus, but he was within range of neutral with only slim negative numbers in both DRS and UZR. It was arguably the most valuable defensive season of his career, and the eyeball test agreed that he held his own.
All told, Lowrie was as productive as he’s ever been on both sides of the ball and as healthy as we’ve ever seen him. His 4.0 bWAR shattered his career-high, while his 3.5 fWAR tied his personal best on that scale — both marks led the team, and are the highest we’ve seen from an Oakland position player since Josh Donaldson in 2014.
Analysis: Keeping Lowrie at this price was a no-brainer, even entering age 34. There would have been a $1 million buyout had the option been rejected, so this decision really adds $5 million to the payroll for a veteran leader who just put up a 3-4 WAR campaign.
During the summer he looked like an obvious trade candidate, and he still could be. But for as long as he sticks around, he now appears to be a viable (maybe even strong) 2B option in 2018 if the A’s choose to give their stable of middle infield prospects another season of minor league marination (Barreto, Schrock, Mateo, etc.).
Congrats to Jed on a great year and a well-deserved payday!
Kotsay: The A’s also announced that Mark Kotsay will take on a new role called Major League Quality Control Coach. What does that mean? From the press release: “In this role, Mark will assist Bob Melvin and the ML coaching staff in all areas and will also consult with the front office in other facets of the organization.”
Kotsay began 2017 as the bench coach but stepped away for a family medial emergency. Ryan Christenson will be the bench coach in 2018.