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A’s bring veteran infielder Jed Lowrie back from Houston

After a year in Houston, Jed Lowrie is back with the A's.

After a year in Houston, Jed Lowrie is back with the A’s.

Jed Lowrie, who helped the A’s to consecutive American League playoffs berths in 2013 and 2014, is coming back to the A’s.

Oakland sent minor league right-handed pitcher Brendan McCurry to Houston in exchange for the veteran infielder. He’d left the A’s after the 2014 season to sign a three-year contract with the Astros, so he has two years left on his deal.

The A’s will announce a 40-man roster move later in the day.

Lowrie missed three months of the season with a torn ligament in his right thumb and was never able to regain his offensive stroke in a .222 season that saw him hit nine homers and drive in 30 runs. Before the injury Lowrie hit .300 with four homers and 10 RBI in 18 games.

The veteran switch-hitter average just .194 in his final 51 games.

In his two seasons with the A’s in 2013-14 he averaged .290, hit 21 homers and drove in 125 runs in 290 games played, mostly at shortstop.

He comes back to the A’s primarily in a backup role, although he could move in at second base, a position that never got locked down in 2015. The A’s had thought of Lowrie as a second base candidate when he was with the club the first time around.

He’s said in the past he’s open to the job at second, although he would prefer not to bounce from position to position. Eric Sogard and Brett Lawrie did most of the second base work in 2015, Lawrie moving over when Danny Valencia came in to play third base the final two months of the season.

With Houston, Lowrie played mostly third base with rookie Carlos Correa moving into the shortstop’s job en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors.

McCurry had 27 saves last year with Class-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, a total that led all A’s minor leaguers. The 23-year-old right-hander had a 1.95 ERA in 36 games with Stockton and a 1.62 ERA with Midland. He was the A’s 22nd-round draft pick in 2014.

 

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Samardzija happy to be with White Sox, but a little disappointed A’s didn’t keep roster together for 2015

Jeff Samardzija says A's would have been a force in 2015 if the team had been held together.

Jeff Samardzija says A’s would have been a force in 2015 if the team had been held together.

Jeff Samardzija came back to the Coliseum as a member of the Chicago White Sox Friday, his first visit since the 2014 season ended with Samardzija due to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series for the A’s, a game that never happened.

With Oakland holding a 7-3 lead in the eighth inning and an 8-7 lead in the 12th inning in Kansas City, the A’s couldn’t hold off the Royals in the Wild Card game. That ended Oakland’s season.

And if you think injuries are costing the A’s now, Samardzija said losing catcher Geovany Soto, now a teammate with the White Sox, in the second inning and center fielder Coco Crisp late in the game cost the A’s a trip to the World Series.

“If we win that game, there’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to the Series,’’ Samardzija said. “The momentum going to the winner of that game was something else.’’

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Astros’ Lowrie not particularly surprised not to be with A’s, but he loved his two `awesome’ years playing with Oakland

Shortstop Jed Lowrie has traded green-and-gold for Astros orange in 2015.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie has traded green-and-gold for Astros orange in 2015.

Jed Lowrie made no secret last October of his hope that the A’s would keep the core from the 2013-14 A’s together in Oakland.

Coming off three consecutive post-season appearances, the A’s did no such thing. Proof lies in Lawrie’s new job as the Astros shortstop. He got Monday night off after Houston played a 14-inning game Sunday, his sixth game in the season’s opening week.

“It’s not like I ever sat down with Billy Beane to talk about it,’’ Lawrie said. “So it’s not for me to say about what the A’s did. But it’s more than a little strange to look at them now, because they’ve had so much turnover.

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Headley had chance to join A’s; that money will stay in play; Korean shortstop Kang is not among those likely to get it

Eric Sogard is the only remaining member of the 2014 A's infield still with the team after free agency Jed Lowrie signed Sunday with Houston.

Eric Sogard is the only remaining member of the 2014 A’s infield still with the team after free agency Jed Lowrie signed Sunday with Houston.

In trading Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija this off-season, the A’s have made it very clear that they are going younger in 2015. And, as a byproduct, they are seeing their payroll obligations much reduced.

But they A’s were willing to chase at least one expensive free agent, Padres’ third baseman Chase Headley, this time around. I wrote about the possibility when the Donaldson trade went down. And when the third baseman signed a four-year $52-million deal Monday with the Yankees, Ken Rosenthal of Fox confirmed via Twitter that Oakland had indeed made a competitive offer for Headley early on.

While no one now will get from the A’s as much as they were willing to offer Headley, the A’s still have money to spend in free agency.

But despite the rumors that persist on the internet, Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang will not be one on the Oakland shopping list. Kang was posted Monday, but at the winter meetings, A’s general manager Billy Beane made it clear the A’s were not interested.

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A’s could use Lawrie at second if Headley is in their future

Brett Lawrie could be the A's third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

Brett Lawrie could be the A’s third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

The A’s trade of Josh Donaldson Friday may seem to make little sense when looked at as a solo exercise on the part of general manager Billy Beane.

But if it’s taken as part of a package, the deal in which the A’s sent their All-Star third baseman to Toronto in exchange for four players – including third baseman Brett Lawrie –

Oakland management is high on, could well be part of a series of roster maneuvers that might have a chance to keep the A’s competitive in 2015.

The A’s have lost (or will soon lose) starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, reliever Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie as free agents. That’s a load and a half to make up during the winter, and it’s possible it can’t be done.

But there are other options out there.

I heard from a source Friday that the A’s are talking with the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton and/or catcher Evan Gattis, two power hitters who would grace any big league lineup. The cost would be astronomical – starter Jeff Samardzija – but the return would be seriously good.

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MLB’s `qualifying offer’ system qualifies as a mess for the A’s

Jon Lester will be pitching elsewhere in 2015 as a free agent, and the A's won't be getting any compensation for his departure as a free agent.

Jon Lester will be pitching elsewhere in 2015 as a free agent, and the A’s won’t be getting any compensation for his departure as a free agent.

While the Tigers have made a qualifying offer to their ace, Max Scherzer, and the Royals have made a qualifying offer to their ace, James Shields, the A’s have done no such thing with their ace, Jon Lester.

They haven’t done it with Jason Hammel, who isn’t an ace but who was very good after getting off to a rocky start with his new club.

The deadline is this evening, 9 p.m., and it won’t happen in either case.

Why? Well, baseball rules don’t allow it. The only players who can get qualifying offers are those who have been with their 2014 team for the entire season. In the case of Lester and Hammel, they came to the A’s in mid-season trades and aren’t eligible for a qualifying offer, which this season is pegged at $15.3 million.

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A’s could see all seven of their free agents gone in 2015

Starter Jon Lester is one of seven potential free agents the A's could see leave this off-season.

Starter Jon Lester is one of seven potential free agents the A’s could see leave this off-season.

Now that Madison Bumgarner is going to stop grabbing all the headlines, which should happen any day now, the clock is up and running on the 2015 season for the A’s, and for everyone else.

The A’s had visions that starter Jon Lester would have the same kind of impact on Oakland’s October as Bumgarner did for San Francisco’s. Lester, after all, had the second-best World Series ERA, 0.43, in history before Bumgarner’s MVP performance against the Royals lowered his career World Series ERA to 0.25, pushing Lester to third.

Now Lester is all but gone from the A’s. He said he loved his time in Oakland, and the A’s would like to have him back, but the money doesn’t work. Lester is going to get a contract in the range of $150 million from someone – the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Cubs lead the list of the usual suspects – that would all but break the bank in Oakland.

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A’s powering down as their season is winding down

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A's hitters.

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A’s hitters.

There are only so many ways to ask the A’s about their frustration level and if their supply of moxie evaporated at the end of July.

Oakland is simply not the same team it was six weeks ago.

For four months, Oakland had the best record in the game, the best run differential, the most runs scored and ranked in the top five in the fewest runs allowed.

The pitch has remained relatively constant, but all the other numbers have fallen off a cliff, mostly because the offense has gone from awesome to awful.

“We were one team for the better part of four months,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “Then for the last month and a half it’s been different.’’

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Norris gives up on home runs, but the hits are coming back

Derek Norris's home run swing is a thing of the past for the time being.

Derek Norris’s home run swing is a thing of the past for the time being.

A’s catcher Derek Norris was winged by a foul ball Tuesday and needed a few moments to shake it off, but he said afterward he was fine.

He also announced he’s no longer trying to hit home runs. He’s hit 10 this year, but none in his last 99 plate appearances.

His average had been sliding a bit as he got up in the desire to go deep. Since his last home run on Aug. 9, he’s averaged just .217 and his overall mark has slid from .299 to .277 entering play Wednesday.

“I’ve been swinging on `E’,’’ Norris said of his month-long homer drought. “I’m going to leave that to the other guys.’’

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A’s find some life and energy after long dry spell

Scott Kazmir saw energy in the A's Saturday that had been lacking for a while.

Scott Kazmir saw energy in the A’s Saturday that had been lacking for a while.

For five weeks, the A’s were performing a number straight out of Jackson Browne, Running On Empty.

They showed up daily at whatever ballpark was on the scheduled, convinced they were playing hard. But something was missing.

That something showed up again Saturday in a 4-3 walkoff win over Houston. The Coliseum crowd could sense it almost from the time Josh Donaldson led off the ninth inning with a single.

The A’s were down 3-1 at the time. In recent weeks, scaling Kilimanjaro was easier for the A’s by far than putting together a ninth-inning rally.

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