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“Lowrie/Barreto” Choice Is A Fascinating Conundrum

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Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
A picture is worth 1,000 words (but not 1,000 points of OPS).
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

I’m not sure there has been a decision facing the A’s that has more pros and cons arguing across the room at one another than the choice of re-signing Jed Lowrie to play 2B or handing the keys to Franklin Barreto. I am not going to profess to think I know the answer to this one, as for every pro I find a con and for every con I find a pro. (Then there’s my Uncle Perv, who as a con was quite a pro and that’s why he’s not allowed back at any of our local Safeways.)

Now, I don’t see the A’s offering Lowrie more than a 2-year deal so if another team offers 3-years the decision may be made right there. For that matter we don’t know how much the A’s intend to try to bring Lowrie back or how sincere Jed is when he gives the classic “If the terms are right I’d be open to it...”

But let’s assume that both possibilities are on the table right now, as Oakland enters the off-season. Check out all the conflicting arguments for and against each option...

Lowrie Pro...At age 34, Lowrie just put up a 4.9 fWAR season on the strength of a .267/.353/.448 batting line and only 4 errors all season, making him one of the A’s top players in a surprising 97-win season. It’s never a “no brainer,” when aiming to contend again, to let one of your best players walk.

Lowrie Con...There are few guarantees as to how Lowrie will sustain his 2018 success at ages 35 and 36. The OBP will likely hold up, but if his range declines a tick and injuries resurface (neither of which would shock anyone), Jed is not far from being an “oft-injured empty OBP guy” in his mid-30s.

Lowrie Pro...It’s hard to quantify a player’s positive impact on teammates, but it is also difficult to argue that watching Lowrie bat every day provides a valuable example for each of the A’s young hitters. His approach is near perfect — heck the one guy I keep hoping is paying attention is a certain Franklin Barreto.

Lowrie Con...As great as it is to have a “good example for others to watch,” it has to come with production or it becomes Chris Hatcher “going about his business as he serves up yet another long HR,” and in Lowrie’s case his role as a veteran influence would not come dirt cheap. So really you sign him only if you believe he can perform, not as a batting tutor.

Lowrie Pro...Re-signing Lowrie allows the A’s to give Barreto another season in the minors to hone his craft and preserve his service time while he is still very young (23 next season) and pretty raw.

Lowrie Con...Re-signing Lowrie to a multi-year deal (almost certainly necessary) means having him under contract in 2020 when Barreto will be out of options. That means either using Barreto’s first MLB season as a utility player or backup, or trading him hoping he does not emerge to be the impact player many have predicted.

Barreto Pro...There is no mistaking the talent, so much so that Barreto could strike out a ton and disappoint in many ways and still probably hit 20 HRs, steal 20 bases, and impact games in myriad ways along the way.

Barreto Con...Oh my, the strikeouts — so plentiful that his “bust potential” as a big leaguer seems awfully high. It’s all well and good to point to Matt Chapman’s contact issues in the minors and extrapolate from it that every minor leaguer who fans like it’s going out of style is about to become a star, but...that’s not how it actually works. A 31.8% K rate repeating AAA, no matter if you’re only 22, and a 38.7% K rate in the big leagues this season, is cause for alarm, period.

Barreto Pro...Still only 22, Barreto put up solid numbers at AAA this season even with the strikeout issues, slashing .259/.357/.514 while being young for his league.

Barreto Con...Barreto, though young, was repeating AAA, so his slash line has to be put in that context. “Steamer” looks at all of it and projects all of a .235/.292/.399 in the big leagues for 2019.

Barreto Pro...In his big league time, it certainly stood out that Barreto has legitimate power and like Pinder, can look foolish much of the time and still run into enough balls to put up decent numbers.

Barreto Con...In his big league time, what may have stood out the most is that Barreto’s ability to recognize bad breaking pitches is still “Crosbyesque”. Perhaps equally troubling is that he seems prone to swing through fastballs in the zone. It’s easier to get excited about Barreto as a prospect when you don’t actually watch his at bats.

So in Lowrie you have the “safer player” — unless he falls off a cliff or slips back into a pattern of having injuries find him. In Barreto you have the “high upside” — unless he goes the way of Crosby (not Skills & Mash) and becomes just another very talented athlete who couldn’t get over the hump.

At this moment, if the A’s have the opportunity to sign Lowrie to an “affordable but not cheap” 2-year deal, I truly don’t know what I think the right move is for Oakland to make. I tend to be wary of counting on continued excellence from aging players, and I tend to think the A’s need to roll the dice on cheap “high upside” athletes with star potential. I also think that unless he makes a key adjustment to his swing and approach, Barreto has a chance to be a gigantic “thud” despite his electric skill set. And I’m never going to be too hasty to try to contend by jettisoning my #3 hitter and reliable veteran leader when I’m already worried about my starting pitching.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad I don’t have to make the call on this one because my advice is to make the decision that we all agree, a few years from now, was the right one.

Poll

Ultimately, which decision do you think is the right one for the A’s to make this off-season?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Really try to bring Lowrie back on a 2-year deal, keep Barreto at AAA in 2019, Oakland 2020 in some role.
    (536 votes)
  • 21%
    Really try to bring Lowrie back on a 2-year deal, trade Barreto (probably for starting pitching).
    (252 votes)
  • 31%
    Let Lowrie go and entrust 2B in 2019 to Barreto.
    (377 votes)
  • 2%
    Let Lowrie go and entrust 2B in 2019 to someone other than Barreto.
    (26 votes)
1191 votes total Vote Now