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Is there room for both Lowrie and Punto?

A's beat reporter Jane Lee answers questions from the Oakland faithful

The A's are saying Jed Lowrie is their shortstop, but they've never shied away from trading key players, so do you really think they mean it? Nick Punto can handle the job, and I just don't see how there is room for both of them.
-- Kameron M., Petaluma, Calif.

Remember, just nine months ago, when everyone was saying there wasn't room for Lowrie? The A's had already signed Hiroyuki Nakajima, proclaiming him as their shortstop, and they were all set at third base, with Josh Donaldson, and second base, with a plethora of options. Lowrie was going to be the utility guy, or so everyone thought. The point is, these things have a way of working themselves out, and a big part of the A's success in recent years has been their quality depth.

That being said, I do believe Lowrie will be in an A's uniform when camp begins. Even if the club is offered a tempting package for him, let's remember this isn't a time for rebuilding. The A's are in win-now mode, aiming for their third straight American League West title, and Lowrie was key to this year's. I envision him keeping the shortstop position nice and warm for Addison Russell, while Punto gets his fair share of time at second base.

What are the chances that we could possibly see two-thirds of The Big Three coming back to Oakland, with both Barry Zito and Tim Hudson being free agents?
-- Drake S., Sacramento

Even the return of one-third of The Big Three seems slim, though the A's are one of several teams to have reached out to Hudson's camp. It's hard not seeing him getting a more lucrative offer elsewhere, especially in such a thin pitching market where more desperate teams are going to pay more money. I'd imagine the A's stay in touch with him, while waiting to see what happens with Bartolo Colon, but I'm doubtful a reunion actually happens. Same for Zito.

With the addition of Sonny Gray to the starting rotation, where do you see Tommy Milone next year? Is it possible for him to remain a starter, or is it more likely they make him a long reliever to complement Jesse Chavez? Or will he go to the Minors, or even be traded? I'm hoping the A's give him a few starts in Spring Training and the regular season to prove he can still be successful in that role.
-- Will S., Castro Valley, Calif.

Milone is very much in the mix for a starting job, and he'll have every opportunity to open the season in the rotation, despite his temporary move to the bullpen in late August following a rough patch. Along with Gray, the A's have Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin and Brett Anderson. Counting Milone, that's already six candidates for five spots, with the potential for Colon to join in again, too. But teams can never have enough pitching, and with few up-and-comers roaming the Minors at the moment, it would behoove the A's to keep their staff intact.

That includes Milone. And, remember, anything can happen in Spring Training, notably injuries that create openings for other players.

Now that he no longer needs to be protected on the 25-man roster, what is Nate Freiman's role? Will he go to Triple-A for more development? Did he really do enough to justify a platoon role at first base in 2014?
-- Scott P., Oakland

Freiman did a commendable job in the role in which he was placed this year, and because of his ability to get on base against left-handers, I wouldn't be surprised if he starts the season on the 25-man roster again. He really is a good complement to Brandon Moss, whom the A's are envisioning as an everyday player some day, and Freiman is also a nice piece to have off the bench.

Any chance the A's bring back Dallas Braden, even in a bullpen role?
-- Pierre M., Santa Rosa, Calif.

Chances are this ship has sailed. Braden and his perfect game will always be a big part of A's history, and while the idea of him signing up for a second tour in Oakland is intriguing, I see him trying to revive his career in a different uniform. The A's aren't ruling him out, but Braden must also first prove to clubs that he's fully healthy from his shoulder capsule surgery.

Jane Lee is a reporter for

Oakland Athletics, Jed Lowrie, Tommy Milone, Nick Punto