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Does Lowrie Signing Give A’s An Opportunity To Zag?

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Miami Marlins v New York Mets
“Ta da!”
Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

I come today with an idea out of left field. And I mean that literally, even if I don’t explain myself right off the bat. And I don’t mean that literally, as I write this with neither a piece of lumber nor a small mammal at my side.

If Jed Lowrie had been available for 2 years and $20M back when the A’s were making offers, chances are he’d still be in the green and gold. I have to think Lowrie was holding out for 3 years or a higher AAV until finding that his stock was in a bear market only heading south.

So the A’s moved on, and by the time Lowrie’s market was established at just 2/$20M Oakland had acquired Jurickson Profar and Lowrie is a New York Met. What adds intrigue to the Lowrie signing is that Profar can play multiple positions (in 220 career innings he has rated well in LF, with a +9.7 UZR/150) and Lowrie joins a Mets team that is strangely plush with second basemen.

Already the Mets are talking about Lowrie perhaps playing some 3B, yet there is a presumed incumbent there in Todd Frazier. Maybe Robinson Cano will be asked to shift over to 1B, where he has played all of 88.2 career innings and put up an UZR/150 of -11.9. Knowing the Mets, they’re probably planning to solve the logjam by having one of these guys DH.

You know whose name hasn’t even come up yet? A certain Jeff McNeil, who made a splash in 2018 when he debuted to a .329/.381/.471 line (137 wRC+) and profiled as an average defensive 2Bman. Turning 27 in April, McNeil’s minor league pedigree is pretty solid offensively with a career line of .311/.380/.443 and a K-rate of under 12%. And McNeil is a left-handed batter.

A LH batting high BA, low K 2Bman? Currently buried on a team that inexplicably keeps loading up on older players, under contract for multiple seasons, at the same position? Talk about a perfect fit for an A’s team overloaded with hitters who slug like the dickens but sacrifice BA and contact for the cause.

The A’s may not have re-signed Lowrie but his signing could potentially open the door for a sneaky “zag while you’re thinking zig” move. McNeil isn’t a pitcher, but his acquisition would give the A’s the opportunity to move Profar to LF as Chad Pinder’s platoon partner. That may or may not free up Dustin Fowler to be traded for pitching — he could also be stashed at AAA knowing that Profar is only under contract for 2 seasons — but it would certainly open up the option of trading Franklin Barreto for starting pitching.

One question, of course, becomes what would the A’s have to give up in order to add McNeil to the core group aiming to contend McNeil’s 2019-2024 contract years? With Yoenis Cespedes probably out for all of 2019, Fowler might be an appealing target for the Mets, and to a lesser degree maybe Mark Canha. Sheldon Neuse also might draw interest, given that the Mets’ 3B situation is unclear long term. In the lower minors, a high upside prospect like Austin Beck might get the Mets’ attention. If the A’s kept Jesus Luzardo, Sean Murphy, and A.J. Puk off the table, as I hope and assume they would, someone would have to a centerpiece for a deal the Mets are willing to make.

The other question is whether McNeil is anywhere near as good as he looked in his first big league cup of coffee. No doubt the A’s would be ‘buying high’ on a player who debuted at his 99.9% percentile. You may be trading for a guy who batted .329 but it’s not likely he will bat .329 for his career. Steamer projects a modest .274/.328/.420 for McNeil.

Still, McNeil’s minor league track record, his strong showing in the big leagues in 2018, the fact that he’s a LH batter who makes a lot of contact and hits for average, and the fact that he could solve 2B for 6 years, all make him an intriguing target at a time when he has never been more buried in his current organization.

What would you give up in order to land McNeil? And maybe more importantly, what do you expect the Mets would demand to move him? Or do you even want him at all? Let the zagging begin.

Poll

Is Jeff McNeil a good target right now for the A’s?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Yes, the price tag (in trade) will be low enough and you can spin starting pitching out of it.
    (241 votes)
  • 20%
    Yes, but ultimately I think the price (in trade) will be too high.
    (231 votes)
  • 45%
    No, the A’s need to directly go after starting pitchers right now.
    (524 votes)
  • 13%
    No, McNeil is overrated and we shouldn’t ‘buy high’.
    (149 votes)
1145 votes total Vote Now