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Oakland A’s second base search ended exactly where it began

The successor to Jed Lowrie turned out to be Jed Lowrie

Oakland Athletics v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s second base search ultimately ended exactly where it began.

In 2018, the A’s sent their second baseman to the All-Star Game. Jed Lowrie was having his second straight excellent season, but at the end of the year he would be a free agent and he’d be unlikely to find future dollars in Oakland. Indeed, he signed with the New York Mets that winter.

The green and gold needed a new plan at the keystone, and they tried everything. They acquired breakout candidate Jurickson Profar, but he didn’t quite break out in 2019, especially on defense where he had a disastrous experience with the yips. They traded Profar away the next winter, and hoped one of their top prospects could take over the reins. Instead, Jorge Mateo was traded away, and Franklin Barreto eventually was too, leaving Tony Kemp with the job; he was later replaced by Tommy La Stella, acquired in exchange for Barreto.

It could have been worse. The A’s still made the playoffs both years, Profar hit 20 homers, Kemp was and still is a nice utility player, and La Stella was excellent in his brief rental tenure. But La Stella bolted across the Bay this winter in free agency, and prospect Sheldon Neuse joined Mateo and Barreto in the trade logs.

By the time Neuse departed, Oakland appeared to be left with Kemp, 2020 rookie Vimael Machin, and super-sub Chad Pinder to patch together some kind of platoon. Instead, they just hit reset and plugged Lowrie back in.

The whole time he’d been gone, Lowrie wasn’t actually playing for the Mets. They gave him $20 million over two seasons, but he was hurt the entire time and got only eight plate appearances at the end of 2019. He never recorded a hit for New York, not even in spring training.

But now, right on cue as he rejoins the only team he’s ever stayed healthy with in his entire MLB career, Lowrie is ready to make his comeback. He signed with Oakland as a non-roster minor league free agent, showed up at camp in playing shape, and had a solid spring, hitting a couple homers and re-proving himself on defense.

On Saturday, manager Bob Melvin told Lowrie he’d made the 2021 Opening Day roster. The team will be cautious with his workload, especially with too many games in a row, but for now he’s expected to primarily play second base, with maybe a bit of DH mixed in. That last part would particularly make sense if he could platoon with lefty DH Mitch Moreland, and get his switch-hitting bat in the lineup a few extra times.

If all goes well, Lowrie is a perfect fit for the 2021 squad, in many of the same ways La Stella was last summer. He makes a lot of contact but without completely sacrificing power, and he offers platoon balance by giving the lineup another lefty bat against right-handed pitching, with enough defense to not give back all the value he created at the plate.

It remains to be seen exactly how much of that the A’s will get out of Lowrie this summer, entering age 37. But after two years of scrambling to find a successor in Oakland, the best answer for 2021 turned out be returning right back to where they’d started. There’s just no replacement for Jed Lowrie.