The Oakland Athletics recently signed Los Angeles Dodgers back-up shortstop Nick Punto to a one-year deal for $2.27M with an option for 2015. Depending on Punto’s production and days on the disabled list in 2014, the A’s have a buyout option for 2015 of $250K.
What does this mean for current A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie? Of course A’s Assistant GM David Forst denies that Punto’s signing has anything to do with Lowrie. The quick progression of top prospect Addison Russell, who put up good numbers at AA Stockton (29 doubles, 10 triples, 17 homers and 21 stolen bases) during the MiLB regular season, as well as in the Arizona Fall League where he finished with a .307 batting average over 18 games with the Mesa Solar Sox may actually have something to do with Lowrie. Also a shortstop, Russell, could easily be ready for the big leagues at the end of Spring Training in March. If this is the case then Punto is a perfect addition for the A’s. He could pick up slack for the rookie who, while seemingly is prepared for the majors, might not be ready for an everyday assignment. Lowrie, however, also has the ability to fill this role.
Punto is a 36 year old veteran who played in 116 games for the Dodgers last season posting a .255 average while providing strong defense in the infield. Lifetime, over 13 MLB seasons, Punto’s batting average is .248 and he is a proven asset at second base, short stop and third base. So where is Lowrie’s role in this picture? So how can the club justify saying that a Lowrie trade is not in the stars? The A’s are always notoriously looking for a big bat and while Lowrie doesn’t have huge power numbers, the 29 year old did hit .290 in 662 plate appearances last season for the A’s, which is an average a lot of teams would be interested in having and the A’s should be interested in keeping.
Rumors are surfacing that the Cardinals are looking to fill a gaping hole at shortstop and a number of players have been mentioned as potential suitors. Players like the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, Red Sox’s Stephen Drew and potentially Oakland’s Lowrie have been mentioned as likely candidates.
The A’s just may keep Lowrie as there are other places for the A’s to play Punto. As a utility infielder, he could play back up for third baseman Josh Donaldson but Donaldson rarely missed a game for the A’s in 2013 and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting. He could also platoon at second base but the A’s already have the 1-2 combination of Eric Sogard, a huge fan favorite, and the mid-season acquisition from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Alberto Callaspo. If the A’s are serious about putting Punto in the shortstop role that leaves Lowrie the odd man out – and with his numbers make for excellent trade bait.
By potentially trading Lowrie to the Cardinals, the A’s could possibly get a much needed hot bat and/or excellent compensation. It’d be a mutually beneficial trade even though, at this time, Oakland still denies that a trade may be in the works. What happens next remains to be seen, but look for both teams to make some off season changes.