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Lowrie leads A's free-agent crop

Oakland has decision to make at shortstop position along with other impending FAs

OAKLAND -- The A's could lose as many as eight free agents this winter -- chief among them Jed Lowrie, with no everyday big league shortstop waiting in the wings.

For so long, the plan was for Addison Russell to take the reins at this position upon Lowrie's expected departure, but that was washed away when he was traded to the Cubs in the deal that gave the A's Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That leaves top prospect Daniel Robertson, who won't be ready until at least 2016, and Andy Parrino, who, though defensively sound, has yet to prove he can hit at the Major League level.

"We've got a kid coming up that we think very highly of, but he's not ready," said general manager Billy Beane. "That is a position of need and concern, at least right now, particularly since Jed's a free agent."

Beane has yet to speak with Lowrie's camp, though it's expected the sides will at least have a discussion. The A's could potentially present him a qualifying offer that, if rejected, would net them a compensation Draft pick from the team that signs him. But Lowrie, 30, is likely eying a multiyear deal.

Lowrie was still processing the A's heartbreaking 9-8 loss in the American League Wild Card Game to the Royals when asked about the factors most important to him when going through this process, but he does already have a few in mind.

"The opportunity for me professionally, where I fit into any potential organization, that's obviously important, and then the situation for my family, as well," Lowrie said. "I think that's a factor. Money is obviously a factor. I'd be lying if I didn't say it was.

"I think the unknown is exciting, and I think every player plays for the opportunity to get to free agency."

Playing shortstop was important to Lowrie when he joined an A's team that considered him at second base while evaluating highly touted Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Lowrie, though, says he wouldn't rule out an opportunity at second base on the premise it was on a full-time basis.

"I'm not going to go into the offseason saying I'm only going to play shortstop, but what I do want is the chance to play the same position, whether that's shortstop or whether that's second base," Lowrie said. "Flip-flopping back and forth, that just doesn't interest me at all. I'd like to be able to play one position."

Lowrie was a model of consistency at the plate in '13, hitting .290 with a .344 on-base percentage in his first full healthy season in the big leagues. But he had his share of lumps this year and battled a fractured finger in the second half, finishing with a .249/.321/.355 batting line. On the defensive side, he compiled three fewer errors at shortstop than last season, but his range often proved limited.

"I'm certainly open to hearing what the A's have to say," Lowrie said. "I enjoy playing for [manager] Bob [Melvin], and I like the guys in this clubhouse. I'm certainly hoping to hear what their plans are and where I would fit in the equation if they choose to include me."

Rounding out the list of Oakland's impending free agents are Jon Lester, bound for a big-money, long-term deal elsewhere, and fellow pitchers Hammel and Luke Gregerson, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes, infielder Alberto Callaspo, catcher Geovany Soto and designated hitter Adam Dunn, who said he will likely retire.

Beane wasn't ready to discuss any one player, noting, "I don't know that we're really in a position to make any individual statements on players that may or may not be back," but of Lester, who no doubt has pitched his last game in green and gold, said, "He was great. We've had some great pitchers here. We had Jon for a short amount of time, but he's as good as any I've ever had here.

"Just the way he approaches the game, he's such a professional. He's gonna get paid a lot of money, and you know what? I can see why, having had him. He was a class act."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
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