De Jed vu: A's, Astros swing familiar deal
Second time infielder has been traded from Houston to Oakland
OAKLAND -- The A's added a familiar face to their infield Wednesday, swinging a deal with the Astros for veteran Jed Lowrie while giving up Minor League right-hander Brendan McCurry.
The well-traveled Lowrie, the starting shortstop for each of the A's last two playoff teams, hit .271 for them in the 2013-14 seasons before he signed with the Astros as a free agent last winter for three years and $23 million.
The A's, who designated lefty Daniel Coulombe for assignment to make roster room and also released righty A.J. Griffin, will owe Lowrie $15 million; he's due $7.5 million next season, $6.5 million in 2017 and holds a fourth-year club option worth $6 million with a $1 million buyout.
Lowrie can play all over the infield, though he's always been vocal about his preference to stick at one position. The A's have Marcus Semien pegged as their shortstop, with Brett Lawrie and Danny Valencia at second and third, respectively, and Eric Sogard as a do-it-all backup. But Lowrie's arrival could open the door for another move.
Lawrie, specifically, is a likely trade candidate, or the club could look to move Valencia.
Only until all of the dominos fall will Lowrie's role materialize, but A's general manager David Forst said Wednesday, "I still see Marcus as a shortstop," before adding, "but part of Marcus' value is his versatility and ability to play everywhere. Obviously, last year he played exclusively shortstop, but we do know, as we build the team going forward over the next few months, he's played two other infield spots and played them well."
"We acquired Jed to play," Forst continued. "Exactly where, we've got some time to figure that out, but he's too good of an offensive player to not be in there somewhere every day. He played a really good third base with Houston, he obviously can play shortstop, and we at times had talked to him when he was here about playing second. His versatility is never a bad thing to have on a club like ours."
The switch-hitting Lowrie, who will be 32 in April, batted .222 with a .712 OPS over 69 games with the Astros this year. He got off to a fast start in his second stint with Houston, hitting .300 over his first 60 at-bats, but he sustained a torn ligament in his right thumb that required surgery and kept him out until late July. By that point, American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa had claimed everyday shortstop duties, leading Lowrie to play mostly third the rest of the way. He hit .181 in August and .222 in September, struggling with a quad injury in the last month, but he is believed to be fully healthy now.
The Astros originally acquired Lowrie in a trade with the Red Sox prior to the 2012 season, and Houston sent him to Oakland on Feb. 4, 2013, in exchange for Chris Carter, Max Stassi and Brad Peacock.
Selected by the A's in the 22nd round of the 2014 Draft, McCurry led Oakland's farm system with 27 saves this season, posting a 1.94 ERA in 36 relief appearances with Class A Advanced Stockton and a 1.62 mark in 14 outings with Double-A Midland. He struck out 82 and walked only 17 in 63 innings.
McCurry was ranked 30th by MLB.com on the A's list of top prospects, and moves into the No. 30 spot for the Astros. The righty tops out at 93 mph with his fastball while getting swings and misses with a plus curveball and deceiving hitters by varying his arm slot.
Lowrie, who makes his offseason home in Houston, told MLB.com he was "disappointed" to leave the city, but said, "I'm familiar with Oakland and we'll see what they say and what role they see me in."
"He's as versatile of an infielder as you can get," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He can play all four infield positions, he's productive from both sides of the plate, and I think the injuries certainly set him back a little last year, but you know he's going to be able to play all of the different positions and keep himself prepared for them."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Because he can play multiple infield positions, Lowrie should hold a prominent role with the A's in 2016. Sharing playing time with Lawrie at second base, Semien at shortstop and Valencia at the hot corner, Lowrie could serve as a solid source of homers for those in deep leagues. But as a lifetime .257 hitter with little speed and a lengthy injury history, he is unlikely to warrant a roster spot in standard mixed formats.