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Time to Move on From Jed Lowrie?

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There are a handful of options I like should the A’s and Lowrie part ways

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
Jed Lowrie has been a special player for the Oakland A’s. But is it time to move on?
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It’s time to walk away from Jed Lowrie, perhaps even run. I realize that I’ve just created many more enemies than I had before making those thoughts public, but that does not concern me, What concerns me is that the 2019 Oakland A’s have 5 or so wins from second base that needs to be replaced. I do not think a reunion with Lowrie, although the simplest solution, is ideal.

My Justification: Age, Decline, and Expectation

Lowrie will play his 2019 season as a 35-year old middle infielder. While Lowrie has missed less than 20 games combined the past two seasons, he has been known to miss significant amounts of time over the years. There is risk in the quantity of games he’ll provide being a low number.

Secondly, and this is something you may not have noticed, but Lowrie just wasn’t that good in the second half of 2018.

Jed Lowrie’s 2018 Splits

Splits BB% K% OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
Splits BB% K% OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
1st Half 9.9 % 19.7 % 0.849 0.207 0.325 0.364 134
2nd Half 13.9 % 17.5 % 0.727 0.141 0.272 0.322 105
Fangraphs.com

He was ultimately slightly above average offensively, but thanks entirely to a decent on-base percentage. His power all but disappeared and his BABIP dropped significantly. This should be cause for concern as much of Lowrie’s value comes from his ability to hit, in addition to play quality defense.

Lastly, he set career-highs in several key categories last season en route to the best season by an Oakland second baseman ever. It would be a tall order for Lowrie to replicate his 2018 production again in 2019. It would be a lot to ask for him to reproduce his 3.6-win 2017 season as well. Steamer projects 2.3 wins from Lowrie in 2019, which is reasonable. But the A’s need somewhere between 4 to 5 wins from Lowrie in 2019 to keep pace with the past year. And don’t forget the price for even a single Lowrie season will likely double from what it was each of the past two years. The odds are that the A’s would need to pay Lowrie 2019 prices for 2018 production.

My Proposal: Trade, Trade, Scrap Heap?

There are a handful of options available, or seemingly available and each would cost less than a 2 or 3 year pact with Lowrie.

Scooter Gennett’s name has been tossed out as potential trade chip for Cincinnati as Gennett is in the final year of team control and is expected to earn just shy of $10mm in 2019. At 4.5 fWAR last year Gennett was just a tad worse than Lowrie but would cost at least $2mm less in 2019. He’s an adequate defender and has broken out offensively the past two years.

Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte may be available in a trade with Arizona as they appear to be in somewhat of a rebuild. Marte, originally considered more of a glove-first speedster had a semi-breakout last season when he put together a 2.5 fWAR campaign. Thanks to an above-average batting line across the board and a quality glove at second base Marte makes sense as a full-time option up the middle, however he may be costly in a trade. Ahmed would be the cheaper of the two to acquire, but that’s because he’d likely be the worst of the two. Ahmed is a glove-first player who has almost exclusively played shortstop at the major league level, and has played it quite well.

Adam Frazier is perhaps my favorite option of the bunch. He has a career 106 wRC+ across parts of three seasons with Pittsburgh, but put together his best work last year when he increased his power output and recorded a .179 ISO and 116 wRC+. In the second half of 2018 he really excelled.

Adam Frazier’s 2018 2nd Half

Season Split BB/K OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
Season Split BB/K OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
2018 2nd Half 0.45 0.890 0.228 0.336 0.375 138
Fangraphs.com

Frazier played most of his innings at second base but also contributed more than 100 innings in the outfield and is average, at worst, defensively.

Lastly, we have Troy Tulowitzki, who Alex detailed here. The pros for signing Tulowitzki are obvious: cost, pedigree, cost. But in thinking about it a bit longer I think the Tulo option makes a lot of sense beyond those reasons. His last “full” season was 2016, in which he was worth 3 wins in 131 games. He has always been a quality defensive shortstop, so I’d expect him to at least be that as a second baseman. If he could post a league average batting line there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be worth a couple of wins or more. Steamer forecasts just that, putting him at a 1.3 fWAR projection in a half season.

My Verdict

I like Lowrie as much as the next guy, I think. I just have come to the conclusion that his best days are behind him. The A’s either need to replicate his production, improve on his production, or decrease cost at his position so as to improve the roster elsewhere. Sending $24-36 million Lowrie’s way doesn’t move the A’s closer to their goal of a title. So it’s best to consider other options.