Athletics Should Give Jed Lowrie a Qualifying Offer

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Sep 16, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie (8) fields a ground ball against the Texas Rangers during the second inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Today, lost in the shuffle of the postseason was the announcement that MLB and the players association have set the qualifying offer at $15.3 million. That is an 8.5 percent increase on last year’s offer of $14.1 million.

Basically, teams have five days after the world series to offer any of their impending free agents a qualifying offer. The offer is for one year at the standardized rate. If the player rejects the offer, he enters free agency, and the original team receives a compensation pick from the team that signed him.

Our own Tony Frye looked at all of the A’s upcoming free agents, and there are only two that are good enough to get a qualifying offer: Jed Lowrie and Jon Lester. Lester is not eligible for a qualifying offer because he did not spend the entire season in Oakland. Therefore, the A’s will not receive a compensation pick when he leaves via free agency. Lowrie, however presents a different situation.

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He is coming off of a season where he battled multiple injuries, and went through some major droughts at the plate. Overall he posted a .676 OPS for the year with 6 home runs. Combine that with his mediocre glove, and there’s no way that the low-budget A’s would give him over $15 million, right?

Not quite. Lowrie is not as bad as his numbers show. In 2013, when he was healthy all year, he hit .290 with 15 home runs. Last year, he struggled with wrist injuries, which undoubtedly affected his swing. Even back to his Houston days, in 2012, he had 21.3 at bats per home run, which is significantly better than the league average 35.3 AB/HR ratio.

Also, his home run totals are not reflective of his true power at the plate. When we look at his doubles totals, 74 over the last two years, we can see that he has more gap-to-gap power than over-the-fence power. I don’t think that his power stroke has disappeared; it has just taken a different look.

Lowrie probably would struggle to get a multi-year deal in the open market, so it would be in his best interests to accept the A’s offer. If he needs any more convincing, Stephen Drew rejected a qualifying offer last year, and nobody wanted to sign him. Other teams thought he wasn’t good enough to risk giving up a compensation pick, and he ended up signing for less than $14 million in the middle of the season.

The A’s are in a situation, as Selena Smith discussed earlier this week, where they need a stop-gap solution at shortstop. Top prospect Daniel Robertson is not major-league ready yet, and probably won’t be until 2016 at the earliest.
Therefore, a one-year deal is perfect. The A’s get production from the middle infield spot, and don’t have to make a long-term financial commitment.

Sometimes people overgeneralize and say that the A’s don’t like to spend money. That’s not completely true. They don’t want to make long-term financial commitments, and qualifying offers allow them to avoid that.

For example, last offseason the A’s signed Scott Kazmir to a 2 year, $22 million contract and traded for Jim Johnson’s 1 year, $10 million contract. The A’s don’t seem to mind spending money as long as they don’t give out long-term deals.

A’s fans may not be overjoyed to see a big chunk of money go to a not-so-flashy player, but this seems like the best option for the short-term. And if Lowrie is absolutely terrible next year, the A’s aren’t bogged down by an awful contract for years to come.

Lew Wolff doesn’t love to break out the checkbook, but he’s definitely more willing when it’s only a one-year deal.

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