When news broke during the offseason of the Oakland Athletics trading Chris Carter for Jed Lowrie, there was a fair bit of uncertainty surrounding the acquisition. I even wrote a few words on why Billy Beane might regret dealing a hitter with home run power and considerable potential for a mediocre infielder who hadn’t ever played more than 100 games in a season.
At the time, that certainly wasn’t an unfair assesment. In four years as a utility infielder at the Major League level, Lowrie had shown that he could hit, but a tendency of ending up on the DL prevented him from earning a starting spot during a four-year stint in Boston. He did play in 97 games in 2012 with the Houston, but another injury in mid-July raised questions about whether he’d ever be an everyday player.
Additionally, Hiroyuki Nakajima was signed to be the starting shortstop six weeks before Lowrie, and with Scott Sizemore making a return at second base from a torn ACL and Josh Donaldson coming off an impressive 2012 campaign at third, there weren’t any guarantees that the 2005 first round pick out of Stanford would get regular playing time in Oakland.
So here we are in the home stretch of the regular season, and Lowrie has put up career numbers while playing in 133 of a possible 139 games. So to say that the trade worked out for the A’s would be a bit of an understatement.
How did it happen? Well, injuries had a lot to do with him getting the opportunity in the first place. Nakajima went down with a hamstring injury in spring training, opening up a spot at Lowrie’s preferred position of shortstop. When Sizemore re-tore his ACL ninth game of the season, there was little doubt that Lowrie would remain there as Eric Sogard played well enough to secure the starting job at second and holding it down capably over the first half of the season.
It’s important not to discount what Lowrie has actually achieved since he was given the chance to contribute on an everyday basis. His hitting was already the most well-known aspect of his game, but he’s taken it to another level this year. He’s third in the Majors in doubles with 41, and he leads shortstops in extra-base hits with 53.
Although the A’s lose a little ground on defense with Lowrie (his 14 errors on the year are second-most among AL infielders), they haven’t had a consistent hitter like him at the position since Miguel Tejada, and with a team that plays in a notoriously difficult park to hit in, you’ll take that trade off without worrying too much about the defensive lapses.
And we haven’t even touched on the best part yet, which is the fact that he’s healthy and contributing heading into a key stretch for the A’s, and he’ll likely be a big part of any sort of success they have in the postseason. I think that alone would’ve satisfied fans’ expectations heading into the year, but the impressive numbers (.288/.346/.432 with 59 RBIs) make Lowrie one of the best bargains in baseball at $2.4 million for the year.
Lowrie has been a steady presence in the lineup all season for the A’s, and while you probably wouldn’t call him the team MVP, without his contributions Oakland certainly wouldn’t be tied with Texas atop the division right now.
When you pair that with the fact that the A’s would’ve been starting a veteran shortstop from Japan with no Major League experience if he wasn’t around, bringing in Jed Lowrie could be considered one of the best offseason moves Beane has ever made in relation to the return he got over the course of the season.
The only thing left to evaluate in that regard is how Lowrie holds up in the playoffs, but the fact is that the A’s might not have even gotten there if he wasn’t wearing the Green and Gold this year.