Jed Lowrie, trade or no trade

By Jason Wojciechowski on November 12, 2013 at 11:36 PM

The Cardinals need a shortstop. For all their wealth of talent at the major- and minor-league levels, they don't really have one. They have Pete Kozma. You can tell how good Pete Kozma is because his name is Pete Kozma. Sound it out.

The A's have a shortstop who is entering his last pre-free agent year. That shortstop can hit like the dickens and field like a dick. That shortstop's name is Jed Lowrie. You can tell how good Jed Lowrie is because his name is Jed Lowrie. Sound that one out. He sounds like an Oregonian who went to Stanford.

This is a good match! The A's have something the Cardinals need. (A shortstop.) The Cardinals have something every team needs. (Unbearable loads of young, cheap talent. More than they know what to do with. More than they can reasonable deal with on just one roster.) So let's do a ...

What's that? The A's won 190 games over the last two years and are returning basically the same team in 2014 that took them to the playoffs (and yet another Game Five loss, granted) in 2013? And teams win 94 and then 96 games don't tend to trade their starting shortstops when said starting shortstops are the second-best-hitting shortstops in the league?

Shortstop wRC+
Troy Tulowitzki 143
Jed Lowrie 121
A bunch of schmucks less than 121

And also people in the know are saying "no way"?

please discount any rumblings about the A's trading Jed Lowrie; they don't have another major-league ready shortstop and getting a free-agent shortstop will cost $10-15 million a year for someone like Stephen Drew. Addison Russell might be ready at some point next year, but the A's aren't going to gamble that the 19-year-old is ready to start for a contender out of camp next spring.

Susan Slusser.

Okay so maybe it isn't such a good match. How would a deal work in theory?

The A's would get back some players. Maybe Kolten Wong could be in the deal because he's a second baseman, a position of some moderate weakness in Oakland and some strength in St. Louis. But Wong is a lot to give up. He's the Cardinals' no. 2 prospect by MLB.com's rankings. So maybe it'd be more like some pitchers. "Mace" Tyrell Jenkins. Jordan "Kanye" Swagerty. Seth "..." Blair.

The point isn't who the A's would get back, though, because I'm beyond pitiful at that game -- the point is who the A's wouldn't get back, and who they wouldn't get back is a shortstop who can fit right in to the major-league team. Obviously they wouldn't get that because if that guy were available to the Cardinals, he'd be starting on the Cardinals. Why do I even bring this up? Because the Mark Mulder (for Dan Haren) and Trevor Cahill (for Jarrod Parker) model of deal, where the A's send away a pitcher and get back a young pitcher who literally slots right into the old pitcher's spot and matches said old pitcher pitch-for-pitch, would be fun and amazing and lovely. But aside from the fact that pitching is probably special (at least in the sense that it's treated as special), there are fewer teams willing to overvalue old dudes for the sake of them being old (relatively) than probably at any point in baseball's history up to now. So the whole point of this rambling paragraph is: if the A's traded Lowrie, they'd need to find their shortstop within or without. Their 2014 shortstop would not be part of the trade.

Unless it's Pete Kozma, and we do not want that.

Free agent shortstops! Here's the MLB Trade Rumors 2014 MLB Free Agent List, which states that the available shortstops are as follows, with age in parentheses:

  • Robert Andino (30) -- yuck
  • Clint Barmes (35) -- yuck
  • Willie Bloomquist (36) -- yuuuck
  • Jamey Carroll (40) -- yuck
  • Alexi Casilla (29) -- didn't he used to ... oh man, no way, yuck
  • Luis Cruz (30) -- yuck
  • Stephen Drew (31) -- expensive
  • Rafael Furcal (36) -- broken
  • Alex Gonzalez (36) -- yuck
  • Nick Green (35) -- yuck
  • Brendan Harris (33) -- yuck
  • Cesar Izturis (34) -- yuck
  • Munenori Kawasaki (32) -- /does a jig
  • John McDonald (39) -- yuck
  • Jhonny Peralta (32) -- expensive
  • Cody Ransom (38) -- yuck
  • Brendan Ryan (32) -- gross

So our hypothetical Jed Lowrie replacement will not be coming from free agency either. This leaves the present organization.

  • Hiroyuki Nakajima -- reasonable utility-man option to have around, maybe/probably/sorta, but not who a contending team should be counting on as Opening Day shortstop, not after he didn't even survive 2013 on the 40-man
  • Andy Parrino -- reasonable-utility-man option to have around, but etc.
  • Chad Pinder -- he's 21 and spent his first professional year getting the bat knocked out of his hands in Vermont
  • Daniel Robertson -- he's 19 and just had himself a nice little season in Beloit
  • Addison Russell -- ah ha. Ahhh. Ah haaaaaa. He's MLB.com's no. 17 overall prospect (though there are four shortstops ahead of him -- Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and Francisco Lindor) and he hit real nice in Stockton, even deflating the numbers a bit for the California League, and everybody's very excited about him. But no, Susan Slusser above is right. Russell got a late-season call-up in 2013 ... to Triple-A, where he played three games. He'll start 2014 in either Midland or Sacramento, wherever it makes more sense for the A's to put him, and that's probably his last stop before the majors, but that is a stop before the majors. Jumping from A-ball to the big leagues is more or less unheard of. Think about your tiny young baby players: Bryce Harper played 58 games in the high minors; Mike Trout 111; Manny Machado 109; Alex Rodriguez 114; Miguel Cabrera 69. Jose Fernandez is the exception, though I'd argue that he proves the rule because he's a pitcher. Russell will get time in Double-A or Triple-A or both.
  • Eric Sogard -- but now we've come to it! Eric Sogard has 280 career innings at shortstop in the majors and 107 games in the minors. He's been mostly a second baseman, but Bob Melvin has been entirely unafraid to put Sogard at short, where, defensively, he can at least hang. So there it is, there's our 2014 post-Lowrie-trade shortstop, right there under our noses.

Alright, but what about the hole at second? First, maybe the A's could snag Kolten Wong and then the answer is easy. And if not, there's Nakajima and Parrino along with Jemile Weeks (assuming the A's still believe in his existence) and Scott Sizemore (gosh) (noting that Sizemore could well be nontendered and thus end up with another team this offseason), out of which four guys you can probably hope that one of them turns out to be borderline Sogardian just long enough for Chris Bostick to have a monster year in High-A and put himself in position to be second baseman of the near-future.

Or there's always Mark Ellis.

My sense/guess is that a lot of the Lowrie speculation is driven by the A's being that team that always sells their players when they get close to free agency, but I'd note that Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada both left of their own accord and Eric Chavez was re-signed. It's not entirely beyond the pale to think that the A's would be perfectly happy to make a qualifying offer to Lowrie in the 2014-15 offseason. Yes, the $14.8 million or whatever the number will be is a lot for Oakland, maybe as much as 20 percent of their overall payroll. But it's also a worthy gamble given that Lowrie probably would turn the offer down, giving the A's a free high draft pick and the additional flexibility that more draft bonus pool money brings, and that even if he didn't turn it down, the worst thing you're stuck with is a good second baseman who makes more money than you'd hope because of your overall revenue situation. Hell, he might even be trade-able at that price.

Where did I wind up? I think: Lowrie's not going to get traded, but: it's not inconceivable that someone could knock Billy Beane's socks off with an offer for Lowrie that would make Beane think very hard about plugging Sogard into the shortstop role for three months or a year because that's the flexibility that Sogard gives you, especially if you believe that 2013 represents something like his true batting skill, because if it does, then he's above the league standard in the middle infield and you can live with whatever his lack of elite athleticism costs on defense.

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