The multipart Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, turns its focus to second base.
Who's on second?
Jed Lowrie, if he's healthy, but the A's aren't banking on it, based on frank comments made by executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane during the Winter Meetings. Beane, when asked about the position in early December, deemed it "a concern."
Lowrie is on the mend from left foot surgery that proved multifaceted, including ligament repair and the removal of a bunion on his big toe. Lowrie, who was sidelined for the final two months of the season, is considered on track for Spring Training, but the A's will be cautious with the oft-injured veteran, forcing them to consider alternative options.
Joey Wendle -- ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the A's No. 28 prospect -- is at the top of that list, having turned heads upon his September callup with impressive play on both sides of the ball. If Oakland is serious about a youth movement that was pushed to the forefront last season, Wendle should be afforded more playing time to prove his worth -- at the very least as a platoon option, perhaps paired with Chad Pinder. But the A's don't appear confident in their current setup here, leaving them on the lookout for free-agent and trade targets.
Lowrie, who will make $6.5 million in the final season of a three-year deal originally constructed by the Astros, gives Oakland a veteran switch-hitter who can essentially bat anywhere in the lineup when healthy. But his offensive production has been minimal in recent years, with a .248 average to his name over the past three seasons, and his ability to contribute at the plate is vital considering his defensive limitations.
Wendle, meanwhile, hit .260 with one home run and 11 RBIs in 28 games following his September promotion. In two seasons with Triple-A Nashville, he hit .285 with a .323 on-base percentage.
Lowrie is valued more for his bat and versatility than his glove, as he lacks range at second base. In contrast, this was a strength of Wendle's, with the youngster believed to have made considerable improvements on defense since his 2014 trade to the organization.
The A's long-term answer at second base perhaps already resides in their system. Shortstop Franklin Barreto, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the club's top prospect, spent some time at second base with Double-A Midland in 2016 and again in the Arizona Fall League. The 20-year-old is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Nashville, but he could very well make his big league debut sometime in '17.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.