The A’s biggest need this offseason, a shortstop to replace Stephen Drew and Cliff Pennington, was filled when GM Billy Beane signed Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Assistant Gm David Forst, as mentioned by my colleague earlier today, spoke highly of Nakajima as a leader and a player who will make a successful transition to the Major Leagues from Japan. Nakajima projects to be the teams opening day shortstop unless he struggles mightily in spring training. That would be a worst-case-scenario type situation, but when you are in the upper management ranks those are the type of problems you should plan to run into and have an idea of how to resolve the issue.
September 19, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Houston Astros shortstopJed Lowrie
(4) throws out a St. Louis Cardinals base runner during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Before the A’s signed Nakajima, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported, they had interest in acquiring Houston Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie. She mentioned the Astros were looking for Chris Carter and another good young prospect in return. As you have probably figured out the A’s turned down that offer and eventually signed Nakajima instead. However, as I mentioned earlier if Nakajima struggles in spring training the A’s might be in trouble. Could the A’s revisit this trade in February or March? Let’s take a look at the player the A’s were inquiring about.
Lowrie has steadily risen to the ranks of an above average shortstop in the Major Leagues. Originally being drafted by the Boston Red Sox he was trade to the Astros in late 2011. This is where he blossomed into a major trade target for teams who needed a shortstop. Unfortunately for those teams, the Astros were in the Captain’s chair for the trade talks asking for an extremely high return for Lowrie. Therefore, he has not been moved yet.
If the A’s feel Nakajima struggles will take a while to be fixed they should look to reopen the trade discussions. The A’s have the offense to replace Carter and the young player if need be. This goes along with the fact that Lowrie is only in his second year of arbitration eligibility. The real reason this trade might not have gone through is because the A’s upper management are still not totally sold on Brandon Moss and trust Carter more.
Lowrie’s numbers are enviable compared to recent A’s shortstops. In 2012 Lowrie put up a .244/.331/.438 slash line to go along with 16 HR and 42 RBI. Lowrie has low strikeout rates which makes him a great addition to any team he plays for. He is solid defensively as well.
If Hiroyuki Nakajima does not make the quick adjustment to Major League pitching in spring training the A’s may be in trouble. The potential back ups are: Adam Rosales, Andy Parrino, and Grant Green. Green is highly unlikely since he has rarely played shortstop throughout the A’s organization since being drafted. Therefore the A’s will need to keep all available options open until they can see what they truly have in Nakajima. We might just see a late offseason pickup if things go south in Phoenix.
*Anytime you want to see where the information provided comes from unless noted click on the hyperlink covering the name of any player or manager. Thanks to Baseball Reference.