The Oakland Athletics recently signed Los Angeles Dodgers back up short stop 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 short stop Jed Lowrie? Of course A’s Assistant GM David Forst denies that Punto’s signing has anything to do with Lowrie but with the quick progression of top prospect and short stop 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 in 18 games to help the Mesa Solar Sox to first place in the East Division of the six-team made-for-prospects league.
Russell could easily be ready for the big leagues by the end of Spring Training in March. If this is the case Punto is a perfect addition for the Athletics. He could pick up slack for the rookie who while prepared for the majors might not be ready for an everyday assignment.
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?
Rumors are that the Cardinals are needing to fill a gaping whole at short stop and a number of players have been mentioned as potential suitors. Names like the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, Red Sox’s Stephen Drew and potentially Oakland’s Lowrie are on the list. Lowrie, 29, hit .290 in 662 plate appearances last season for the A’s. Until the signing of Punto, Lowrie was looked at to be the two year bridge for Russell to adjust to the major leagues. However, there are other places for the A’s to play Punto. As a utility infielder he could play backup 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 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 and with his numbers excellent trade bait.
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