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Steady Lowrie anchors keystone bag for A's

Switch-hitter led Oakland in WAR in 2017
MLB.com @JaneMLB

The multi-part "Around the Horn" series, which features a look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options at each position heading into the season, begins at second base.

Who's on second?

The multi-part "Around the Horn" series, which features a look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options at each position heading into the season, begins at second base.

Who's on second?

The A's wasted no time picking up Jed Lowrie's $6 million club option for 2018, a reasonable sum for the switch-hitting veteran, whose 153 games last year were one shy of his career-high 2013 total.

This means that Lowrie, who was the team's most consistent hitter last season, will be back at second base to team up with shortstop Marcus Semien to round out the middle infield and help stabilize an otherwise youthful lineup. Franklin Barreto, Oakland's top prospect, plays both positions but will have to wait his turn in the Minors.

"Jed's the guy," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He had a great year for us and was great with our younger guys, and I think as the season went along, he enjoyed being here more and more, knowing that he was instrumental with these guys and they looked up to him and was a resource for them. On top of that, he had a great season, and I think he sees where this thing's going, too, and it's going to get better for us as it goes along. Everybody, especially the veteran guys, want to be in a position where they can win."

Offensive outlook

Lowrie enjoyed a career year in 2017, hitting .277 with 14 homers, 69 RBIs and an Oakland-record 49 doubles while turning in a 645 plate appearances. He also finished with a team-best bWAR of 4.0 during his age-33 season.

Video: OAK@TEX: Lowrie breaks A's record with 48th double

The veteran's superb season made him a speculative trade candidate this winter, but the A's have long insisted that Lowrie will be back as their everyday second baseman. This doesn't mean they won't entertain offers, both now and at the Trade Deadline.

Barreto, meanwhile, remains on standby.

"I want a young player to sort of push, where his performance is so good that he pushes himself in," A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said earlier this winter. "Lowrie had an absolutely amazing year, one of the best years probably this side of [Jose] Altuve, as good as any second baseman in baseball."

Video: Top Prospects: Franklin Barreto, SS, Athletics

Getting defensive

Lowrie's injury history has been well-documented, and a lengthy stretch of good health undoubtedly helped him perform better defensively last year. He held his own at second base and was arguably more valuable on defense than any prior season, showing better range and casting respectable numbers in ultimate zone rating and defensive runs saved.

Depth chart

Lowrie's return means Barreto likely will begin next season at Triple-A Nashville, which is seemingly in the best interests of all involved. Barreto will turn just 22 in February and could use some more seasoning in the Minors. Do-it-all utility player Chad Pinder can serve as Lowrie's primary backup in the meantime.

"I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world for Frankie to get some more time," A's general manager David Forst said. "That said, he does do things that play here. He can run, he has power, he's played both spots in Triple-A, so we're going to let him keep working in the middle-infield spots."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Franklin Barreto, Jed Lowrie, Chad Pinder