Why Mets May Not Pursue Jed Lowrie
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?