Why Mets May Not Pursue Jed Lowrie
Well there’s interesting news: former supposed target of Sandy Alderson, Jed Lowrie, may no longer be of interest to the Mets — according to “sources.”
We all know about those unnamed sources that pop up all winter. Let’s pretend there’s some credence to the rumor, and try to understand why …
Of course, there is the matter of Wilmer Flores showing “he is capable of being an every-day shortstop in the big leagues.” Not sure I agree, but then again, I also never agreed that Daniel Murphy was capable of being an everyday second baseman in MLB, and he’s been standing at that position for over three years (who cares that Fangraphs says he’s been -18.9 UZR and -6.9 UZR/150, and -36 runs saved over that time? Everyone knows I don’t pay attention to any of that advanced metrics hooey!).
In addition to proving himself as a defender over 443 innings (with a sparkling 12.5 UZR/150), Flores also put up an offensive showing that proves he’s just as good as, if not better than, Jed Lowrie. Just look at the stats:
Jed Lowrie vs. Wilmer Flores
Do a little math to extrapolate Flores’ stat line so that it’s closer to Lowrie’s in regard to playing time, and you might come to the conclusion that Flores, over 135-140 games, would have been nearly the same player as Lowrie in 2014. And, if you’re like most Mets fans, you expect Flores to be even better in 2015 — because that’s what all young Mets players do, right? They improve their skills and performance as they age and play more often. Look at Lucas Duda, for example (or Ike Davis?), or Juan Lagares (or Ruben Tejada?), or Travis d’Arnaud (or Josh Thole? hmm … we could do this all day!).
Well, let’s assume that Flores will be more like Duda and Lagares, less like Davis or Tejada, and improve his numbers as an everyday shortstop in 2015. How much better will he get? Hard to say, considering we haven’t seen very much from him at the MLB level. Sure, his stats improved at every minor league stop, but so did Lastings Milledge‘s. One pattern we have seen in Flores’ pro career is a poor BB/K ratio; he doesn’t strike out very much, but he doesn’t walk very much, either, which is an indication of someone who is aggressive and probably doesn’t get into deep counts. Flores also has no foot speed whatsoever, and that’s something that doesn’t tend to get better as time goes along — you’re either fleet of foot, or you’re not. As for his glove, as mentioned previously, I’m not yet impressed. Surely, someone will point to his very nice 4.0 UZR or 12.5 UZR/150 and scream, “see! he can play shortstop!” Still, I’m not convinced — 443 innings (or about 50 games) at shortstop is not enough of a sample size to mean anything. For comparison, Daniel Murphy posted a 12.0 UZR/150 in his first 20 games at second base, and 8.8 UZR/150 in his first 95 games at 1B. Even if Flores can be adequate at shortstop, it won’t be enough unless he hits — his ticket to the big leagues has always been his bat, and scouts have been telling us he could develop Miguel Cabrera-like power. Personally, I’m not seeing it, but then again, I’m not a scout. Flores hit 77 homeruns in 3237 career minor league plate appearances — and 28 of those in the homer-happy PCL. That translates to one HR every 42 plate appearances, or about 14-15 over a full 162-game season. Just for fun, I figured out his homerun percentage outside the PCL, which probably isn’t fair, and it came to a HR every 51 PAs, or about 11-12 HR in a full year.
But really, the fact the Mets may not go after Jed Lowrie has more to do with Lowrie than it does with Wilmer Flores. Once a solid, above-average defender, Lowrie’s work at shortstop has gradually decreased. He could be considered average to slightly below-average as a shortstop — and depending on where he winds up in 2015, may very well move to 2B or 3B. Lowrie’s pop has also disappeared — after hitting 16 homers and posting a .769 OPS in less than 100 games for the Astros in 2012, and then hitting another 15 HR and a .791 OPS for the Athletics in 2013, his production sunk to only 6 HR and a paltry .676 OPS in 2014. He did deal with neck problems early in the season, and broke a finger late, so MAYBE the drop in power could have been due to physical issues. Even so, Lowrie will be 31 next April, and has had a history of injury issues, so there’s legitimate concern that his best days are behind him — yet, his most lucrative, highest-salaried days are ahead of him.
Considering that Lowrie will likely than he’s worth, I can understand why the Mets may not target him as their 2015 shortstop. However, I do believe he’s a worthwhile pickup for a championship-bound club as either an everyday second baseman or a super-utility guy. Additionally, I don’t believe that passing on Lowrie means that Flores will be anointed the Mets 2015 shortstop. Depending on what the Mets decide to do with Daniel Murphy, Lowrie could make sense — we’ll find out in the coming months.
What’s your thought?
You’re correct in stating that what the Mets do with Murphy is the key to how the middle infield is structured. Personally, Flores does not pass my eye test as the long range answer at SS. His range and footwork leave me unimpressed. His arm is adequate and he catches what he can reach. But he is growing physically which will impede his range even more, and will probably have to move to another position if his bat produces. Like you, I am skeptical.
Sorry, I’m in the minority…but I would sign Murphy long term. 10 year, 150 million…he’ll bat 280 for most of it. I was ticked off when he took paternity leave, but I was wrong about him. He PLAYED when he came back. I would have taken off for my daughter’s birth, too if I hadn’t been a teacher on summer break.
2016 rotation…Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Sydergaard, Matz…potentially makes us true contenders…next year is transition year to winning record and trading for offense, but deep playoffs isn’t until Harvey’s second year back and degrom, Syndergaard, and Matz all up in the bigs with more experience.
Need to see if Harvey can produce post surgery…for a whole season.
I’d move Grandy to Yanks for a bag of peanuts & platoon Kirk & Andrew Brown in RF. With Wright & Duda on the IF corners, d’Arnaud & Kirk/Brown on the OF corners and an absolute spine up the middle, we have a team defense that can support our strong pitching.
Dilson Herrera needs a full year in AAA. He’s not ready.
Line-up: Andrus, Murphy, d’Arnaud, Duda, Wright, Plawecki, Lagares, Kirk/Brown – pitcher.
Because I think Fangraphs metrics are relatively on target and Murphy is a liability.
So can you afford to have both Flores at SS and Murphy at 2B, two liabilities up the middle?
Maybe you can live with one of them if the person at the other position (SS or 2B, as the case may be) is a plus defender but two negative defenders at these two key positions?
Plus TDA has struggled defensively as well so up the middle is very weak in this scenario (other than obviously Lagares)?
You forgot the Wilpon factor – Flores will work cheaper than Lowrie.
Many baseball people always have said “just catch the ball when it’s hit to you”, that and knowing what to do with it are the secret I think. Flores shows a good baseball acumen. He has a feel for the game that only Lagares, Wright, Granderson, and MDD seem to have. Flores deserves a chance.
How many more years will the Mets play the strategy of hopes and wishes?
I’m with you all the way on the Dude and Lagares. Both have earned their jobs, and I’m fine with penciling them in as starters, but depth is a requirement. That is why DenDekker needs to be in the plans. Not that he is a sure thing, but the guy can play plus D in CF, he has made adjustments, and he did actually lead both th AA and AAA in hitting during his career. Regarding “the year”, every year is it, but the owners don’t quite get it. I am as bugged as anyone about the short arms approach, but I don’t see it as such a big deal this winter. I don’t care for anyone in this FA crop, and Cuddyer just got a qualifying offer so no thanks on him. The only guy I’d spend on is the lefty reliever Miller, who shouldn’t break the bank even though he will get bid to big money for a reliever. Adding a stud lefty arm to the pen will make it killer, a necessity to play with today’s elite teams. Back to the lineups, with Wright and Grandy iffy, Duda and Lagares no sure thing, Alderson must weed out every true weak link to give this team a shot in 2015.
Personally, I just don’t see a lot of “automatically better” options that address the need for a solid offensive AND defensive SS that either won’t have significant cost (both in terms of players and $$$) and/or other risks (like Tulo with his injury history or any of the Cubs’ highly touted but still unproven prospects). I’m not crazy about the FA market, especially at the expected price tags, nevermind the likelihood that the Wilpons won’t be able to afford them, and any trade will have to be a bold one that will likely cost the Mets one or more of their top four pitchers (i.e., Harvey (not likely), Wheeler (kind of likely), deGrom (less likely) or Syndergaard (most likely)) – whether that would be for Tulo (who I don’t think is worth the $$$ and the injury risk) or Castro (who I don’t think is worth one of the above-referenced pitchers AND certain other players) — if the Cubs were willing to accept some combination of Niese/Colon/Gee AND perhaps Plawecki AND Matz for Castro — then, MAYBE Sandy should consider it. And, even then, who’s batting 6th in the order to protect Wright-Duda-d’Arnaud? Certainly not Castro.
Denard Span is a very good outfielder, and a gamer. He also kills the Mets. But he is not a better CF than Lagares. Billy Hamilton is a good player but they can’t punish Lagares for skipping Hamilton and making DeGrom rookie of the year, and deservedly so.
There have not been too many points of pride as a Mets fan for the last 8 years, but I am proud to say we do have the best defensive CF in all of baseball. Good for you Juan.
We knew that Tejada wasn’t the answer so why did it take so long to give Flores a chance?
I’ve thought about this, and I think the answer must be that the Mets never really considered Flores a viable alternative until late in the season. Put another way, they didn’t think Flores could play SS at the major league level so they never even considered him a candidate for the position that should get a 2014 tryout to see if he was “The Answer” for 2015.
That’s what I think.
I’d like to hope that is the case as I feel like I know the guy after reading and (occasionally) writing about him for six years or so, and further we all like to see prospects who come up through the system succeed.
But while we’re hopeful that Flores can translate that late season success to a full year, it’s certainly not guaranteed.
I do agree with Cerrone that Alderson is likely to acquire a SS to compete with Flores in spring training, with Flores as the clear frontrunner. An alternative is just to stand pat and go with Flores and if he fails in the first third of the season or so, hope that Reynolds is the answer, and that might happen also due to the Mets tightfisted-ness.
And, these are BIG IFs, but IF (1) a healthy Wright and Granderson are able to produce their historical averages in 2015, (2) Duda, Lagares and d’Arnaud play a full season and continue to grow and be better than they were in 2014, (3) den Dekker becomes the new everyday RF (moving Grandy to LF) and performs like he did after his last call-up from Vegas, (4) Flores realizes his full potential in 2015, (5) Murphy repeats the 1st 5/6 of his All-Star 2014 season, (6) the starting rotation is fully healthy, and, finally, (7) the bullpen remains mostly intact with a healthy Parnell, couldn’t the Mets be the Royals of 2015 albeit with slightly less speed? Granted A LOT of IFs and wishful thinking, but if all the stars align, is it remotely possible that they could be a playoff contender? Maybe this is just me as a jaded but still way overly optimistic/masochistic Mets fan … the only thing that would bug me, if they were to make the playoffs this way, is that the Wilpons would rest on their laurels and say, “See … we knew what we were doing.” God — that would be painful and would likely only be a 1 season mirage.