Why Mets May Not Pursue Jed Lowrie

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

PlayerGPAHRRBIRBBKBABIPAVGOBPSLG
Lowrie136566650595179.281.249.321.355
Flores78274629281231.265.251.286.378

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!).

Yeah.

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?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. meticated October 29, 2014 at 5:03 pm
    He’s finished. ..on the downside..we need him like we need for jefffys spawn to inherit the team…go with flores save the hard earned and spend it teaching center of gravity workshops..buy half a dozen gyrogyms and retrain their original form. ..sounds esoteric…it’s not
    • DanB October 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm
      Actually, Jeffy’s spawn might be not be a bad choice to run the Mets. Jeff Wilpon’s son was a star high school pitcher and was a late round draft pick who turned down the Bosox to go to UPenn’s school of business. Jeff, on the other hand, was a token draft pick and attended Palm Beach Community College.
      • TexasGusCC November 3, 2014 at 1:22 am
        Hopefully, he took after his grandpa.
  2. norme October 29, 2014 at 6:38 pm
    Joe,
    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.
  3. Vinnybb October 29, 2014 at 7:50 pm
    Flores and Cespedes fill the holes. Trade some chips to Boston…it won’t take much to pay 10 million for his walk year. Cespedes will give a good effort for a 2016 contract, and if he leaves Nimmo or Conforto will be ready.
    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.
  4. argonbunnies October 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm
    Yer “everyday Wilmer” link is broken.
  5. argonbunnies October 29, 2014 at 10:35 pm
    Flores reminds me of Delmon Young with the bat — can slump horribly, but can also rip line drives when he’s hot. Maybe capable of a 35-double 18-homer season in his prime. Might hit .300 one year. His OBP will be low, though, and he’ll have trouble staying in the lineup due to the fact that a streaky bat is all he offers. I’d sign up for his age 26 season in a heartbeat, and even tolerate him somewhere in the middle infield for the privilege… but for the next 3 years, I dunno. He needs reps against big league pitchers, but the Mets also need to start winning some games instead of developing guys in the bigs. Trade candidate?
  6. Tommy2cat October 30, 2014 at 7:11 am
    Consider whipping up a trade (Flores, Niese & Montero) for Rangers Elvis Andrus & pairing him with Murphy to be stronger up the middle, with Lagares in CF. Move d’Arnaud to LF (he’s a good athlete & can handle it), and put Plawecki & Recker behind the dish. Now, that’s strong up the middle.

    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.

  7. Bat October 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm
    Just reading this quickly and the comments, so maybe someone has already said this but in my mind Flores is a realistic option as a SS, but perhaps only if Murphy is traded and someone like Herrera, a more natural 2B, is installed at 2B.

    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)?

  8. John D. November 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm
    Joe,
    You forgot the Wilpon factor – Flores will work cheaper than Lowrie.
    • Joe Janish November 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm
      Oy! Good point!
  9. Bobg529 November 2, 2014 at 12:06 am
    I don’t see the Mets doing much of anything this offseason. They will sign Michael Cuddyer and stick him in right. Lagares will be in center and Grandy in left. The infield will be much as we’ve expected; Wright, Flores, Murphy, Duda and d’Arnaud. We will then pray that the pitching is as good as advertised. If we click they will all be geniuses. And if they stink up the joint, they will blow the club up and start all over again. I can smell another rebuilding campaign coming…
    • Victor Chu November 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm
      Now that Cuddyer has received a qualifying offer from the Rockies, I just don’t see Cuddyer joining the Mets via free agency this year. The same can be said for Melky who also received a qualifying offer.
  10. TexasGusCC November 3, 2014 at 1:32 am
    I would like to give Flores at least three months or even a year to show us how he does. This team last year was challenged offensively, so maybe cheating to offense isn’t a bad idea. Everyone think Peralta was a savior on the Cardinals, but his defense is rediculed. I think that a player that makes all the routine players won’t hurt you. He may not help, but how many plays a game are difficult? One?

    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.

    • Joe Janish November 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm
      Wouldn’t 2014 have been the year to give Wilmer Flores the chance to show what he can do?

      How many more years will the Mets play the strategy of hopes and wishes?

      • DanB November 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm
        I have lost track. Which year is “the year”? Is it 2016? I am sure it is not 2015 because the Mets would not be auditioning a shortstop if they thought next year was “the year”. Plus we know they don’y have money to spend this offseason. By the way, am I the only one concerned about how much confidence the Mets seem to have in Duda and Lagares? There is no talk of backups and each needs a good backup. Duda is really a platoon hitter and Lagares is an injury risk. While I could see both on the verge of an allstar season, I also wouldn’t be surprised if both took a big step back.
        • DaveSchneck November 3, 2014 at 10:28 pm
          Dan,
          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.
        • Victor Chu November 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm
          DANB – the Mets certainly seem to be “all-in” on Duda and Lagares, and we can only pray that they will improve from last year. As for back-ups, if the Mets were able to get Cuddyer, he could have also fill-in at 1B against tough lefties, but the qualifying offer killed those chances. And, I agree with DaveSchneck that den Dekker is likely the back-up to Lagares, unless they somehow keep both MdD and Kirk N on the squad, in which case I’m less concerned about the OF defense … however, the offense continues to remains another matter!
      • Victor Chu November 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm
        Joe — it would seem that the Mets (Sandy and/or Terry) did not trust the job to Flores given their expectations of him … and, when it was clear that the season was done for the Mets, only then did they decide, “OK … let’s give the kid a “full-time” audition.” Wilmer may never be a defensive whiz, but can you see him ultimately becoming Peralta-like?

        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.

  11. david November 3, 2014 at 6:37 am
    May I be amongst the first to congratulate Juan Lagares on his Gold Glove award. Aafter the fielding bible named him the best CF in all of baseball, how could he not be awarded the National League Gold Glove CF Award?

    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.

  12. Bat November 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm
    What Joe just said – I was saying that throughout the 2014 season.

    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.

    • Victor Chu November 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm
      Agreed as per my reply to Joe post!
  13. Bat November 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm
    And I do agree with Joe’s inference that Flores hasn’t yet proven he can be an every day SS in the majors.

    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.

    • Victor Chu November 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm
      BAT — I think the SS that SA brings in to compete with Flores will be replacement level at best … or, it might even just be Reynolds. assuming Tejada is non-tendered … I don’t think it will be any of the “top tier” FA SS nor a key piece of any blockbuster trade (e.g., Castro, Tulo, Baez, etc.). Personally, I’d like to see Flores flourish and succeed — he may never become Rey Ordonez or even Tejada defensively, but hopefully his offensive output will help us gloss over any of his defensive shortcomings.

      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.