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Return of the Jedi: A’s sign Jed Lowrie to minor league contract

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Completing the trilogy with his third stint in Oakland

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Just Effing Dominate
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Was there ever any doubt that Jed Lowrie would eventually find his way back to the Oakland A’s?

The A’s signed the free agent infielder to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training, the team announced Wednesday.

When we last saw Lowrie in Oakland, he was their starting second baseman and made the All-Star team in 2018. Then he left in free agency and signed a two-year contract with the New York Mets, and basically hasn’t played since. A variety of injuries limited him to eight plate appearances in 2019, and he missed all of 2020 with a knee problem diagnosed as PCL laxity.

Now entering age 37, and two seasons removed from being healthy enough to even play the game, Lowrie will return to the only place he’s ever been able to stay on the field. He’s never managed to play 100 games in one year for any team other than the A’s due to a long list of injuries, but in Oakland he’s got campaigns of 157, 154, 153, and 136 contests under his belt, out of the five summers he’s spent here in two separate stints.

That doesn’t mean the magic is guaranteed to return again in his third tour in the Bay Area, but the opportunity is certainly there if he can grab it. The A’s second base position is a wide-open battle this spring, not lacking in quantity of candidates but eager for somebody to take charge. They also suddenly have their DH spot available after trading away Khris Davis, which could be a sensible place for an aging professional hitter with balky legs who was never a plus on defense even in his prime.

As a reminder, here’s what he did the last time he played.

Lowrie, 2018 OAK: .267/.353/.448, 124 wRC+, 23 HR, 11.5% BB, 18.8% Ks, .337 xwOBA

That performance was valued at 4-5 WAR, and it illustrates a skill set the A’s could particularly use. Low strikeouts, lots of contact, gets on base, but still drives the ball with authority, all as a switch-hitter who can provide left-handed balance to the righty-heavy lineup.

Of course, the question is twofold. Can Lowrie get back on the field at all? And if he does, how much of that 2018 line can he still bring? Bonus third question: Would he be doing all this as a 2B or as a DH?

We’ll begin find out the answers this spring, and with no downside on the gamble. It’s a non-roster minor league contract so there’s no commitment on the team’s end, but if they like what they see then he’s a free acquisition of a recent former All-Star and major Oakland fan favorite. (Update: He had surgery in October and is “well down the road for rehab,” reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.)

The competition at 2B is Tony Kemp, Vimael Machin, Chad Pinder, and Sheldon Neuse, with Kemp and Machin as the lefty hitters of the lot. The competition for lefty DH is a group of a half-dozen Triple-A outfielders. Now, as a pleasant surprise that doesn’t actually come as a shock to anyone, we can add Lowrie into that mix. Even if he doesn’t make the team, just having him back in the clubhouse for a month in Arizona is a win.

Why not? Spring training was already going to be interesting, and it just got slightly more fun too.