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It’s Almost Time For “Zig-Zag” Season

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets
{checks uniform} “OK that’s definitely not a hit.”
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Right now the A’s are in purgatory, unable to make any decisions on non-tenders, signings, or trades until the post-season is over. OK it’s not purgatory so much as hell when you’re watching, yet again, teams that aren’t you advance in the playoffs. But it’s “transaction purgatory,” a time when front offices cannot act — but they are still allowed to think and plan...

Amongst the toughest decisions the A’s will have to make are whether to retain or non-tender Jurickson Profar, whether or not to try to bring Blake Treinen back (after likely a procedural non-tender to avoid a bloated arbitration contract: see Fiers, Mike), and whether to pursue re-signing any of their 3 “free agent to be starting pitchers”: Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey, and Tanner Roark.

In general the A’s are sitting pretty this off-season, losing exactly zero core players to free agency, and having to make no moves in order to add Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, and A.J. Puk to a rotation that was absent this quartet for much or all of the 2019 campaign. The A’s still have weaknesses, but it would not be unreasonable if the team basically stood pat and still aimed for a 100+ win season.

Then again, the past two seasons illustrate why the wild card is not good enough and Oakland could have won 104 games this year without catching the Astros. How will the A’s try to spruce up production at 2B, the LH batting side, pitching depth you always want and usually need?

We know that the A’s are famous for zagging, making your predictions and mine usually dead wrong. So today I will offer my best shot at a startling zag. Is it possible that the A’s could, for the third time, try to acquire the very man they let go elsewhere just a year ago despite his excellence in 2018: Jed Lowrie. Hear me out...

Lowrie missed virtually all of 2019 with a knee injury, raising the question of whether his body might be done as a big league regular. It’s anybody’s guess at the moment whether there is life left in this 35 year old body that turns 36 mid-April. This is part of why he might be attainable without offering a blue chip prospect in return.

Lowrie is also hardly a part of the Mets’ fabric, having gone all of 0 for 7 with a walk in his time there so far. It’s also difficult to imagine the Mets being resistant to parting with Lowrie, given that they have Robinson Cano, and Jeff McNeil ( 318/.384/.531 before season was cut short by hamstring injury) also in the fold and no DH spot to offer.

The A’s were vindicated in their decision not to offer Lowrie the $20M deal (2 years) he scored with the Mets, as half that salary would have been utterly wasted while Oakland scrambled to find another 2Bman for 160 games. But now that salary is in the rear view mirror, paid by the Mets.

IF the A’s think Lowrie has one more healthy season in him come 2020, his contract is now rather desirable — just a one year commitment (the A’s love those) at a bargain price if Jed reverts to anything like his 2018 season, or even the one just prior. It’s all about whether that knee has a healthy year in it, because with just a year left on Lowrie’s contract Oakland would not need to worry about 2021.

And talk about a perfect fit: a high contact switch hitter with exquisite plate discipline who is “steady as they come” at 2B despite only average range and a weak arm. But I don’t really have to sell Lowrie’s virtues to A’s fans, as we saw it front and center in 2017 and 2018 once Jed solved his sleep apnea issues and realized his potential.

We know this: the Oakland A’s are not shy about acquiring Jed Lowrie. They seem to do it about every 2-3 years. We also know that they probably let him go almost exclusively due to worries that his body might be ready to break down in his mid-30s and 2019 hardly made a fool out of the A’s front office.

But it’s a new year and if Lowrie’s knee injury is “season robbing” rather than “career ending” then he is a bargain waiting to be retrieved from the same dumpster that once housed JD Martinez, Nelson Cruz, and all the other stars nobody coveted for good reason.

Unlikely, and of course there is always the important consideration of the “1 year/$10M curse” that chewed up Ben Sheets and swallowed up Jim Johnson before doing the math and concluding that Billy Butler qualified as well.

But man, add a healthy-enough Jed Lowrie to this 2020 roster, behind a presumptive rotation of Montas-Manaea-Luzardo-Fiers-Bassitt/Puk? I wouldn’t want to be the Astros. Just your “food for thought” of the day as you try to figure out how the A’s will “zag” this off-season.