The Mets made some moves ahead of 2020 season that can only be described as “moves made in the offseason.” The signings of Jake Marisnick, Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello, are way less flashy and exciting than those made by the Phillies, Angels and Yankees.
However, there has been one player this past offseason, who has me amped up every time I hear his name mentioned.
Lowrie came to the Mets on a two-year, $20 million dollar deal during the 2019 offseason. One of Brodie van Wagenen’s first signings, Lowrie was brought in to fill some gaps in the infield depending on the play of Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, etc.
The reason behind bringing Lowrie to Flushing remains a mystery for a multitude of reasons. Why? Let’s start with an easy one:
Where do you put Lowrie?
The main problem I have with the Lowrie signing is that there was never any need for him. In the month leading up to Lowrie’s signing, the Mets already made moves, both expensive and inexpensive, to alleviate the need for a Wilmer Flores type swingman.
The first and most explosive trade deal came in a coast-to-coast swap with the Seattle Mariners. The Mets traded top prospect Jarred Kelenic, Gerson Bautista, Justin Dunn, Jay Bruce, and Anthony Swarzak to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, and cash.
The deal immediately sent shockwaves across the league, and many Mets fans were split right down the middle on whether or not the deal was worth it. On one side the Mets got rid of the contracts attached to Bruce and Swarzak, and received a potential replacement for David Wright’s leadership and a young elite closer still under team control.
The downside is what they gave up in potential.
Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista were backend starters at their best, but Jared Kelenic… Man, was that hard to see him go. It’s always tough to send your top prospect away, especially when the player your receiving is pushing 35 and heading into the sunset of his career.
Regardless, the move cemented Amed Rosario‘s double-play partner and added to a bullpen that was left without a solid anchor.
The next move that impacts the signing of Lowrie is the trade that helped the Mets acquired J.D. Davis from the Houston Astros.
Davis was a Top-10 prospect within the Astros system, and was tearing it up in the minors, hitting consistently in the Pacific Coast League and the Texas League. The trouble for Davis was finding a spot on the roster for his skillset. Even before he arrived in the MLB, Davis was being blocked by Colin Moran at third, despite his trade to the Pirates in 2018. Following the removal of that logjam, the Astros infield was all but solidified with the likes of Yuli Gurriel, José Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Davis was going to be fighting for playing time against guys with All-Star credentials.
So now the Mets have a solid utility option both in the infield and the outfield. But didn’t they already have that before the season ended? Oh, that’s right… they did.
The problem with the Lowrie signing from the outset was that the Mets already had a utility man on their roster. His name is Jeff McNeil. The 2018 surprise at second base was heading into the 2019 season looking to keep his roster spot. McNeil’s .329 average in the second half of the 2018 season lead the Mets by a wide margin. Surely he couldn’t do it again, right?
He didn’t hit .329 in 2019, but he did hit .318, coming in 4th for the NL batting title behind Anthony Rendon’s .319. Jeff McNeil was the perfect addition to a Mets squad relying on youth to pull them through the sludge of their 2019.
To have two of your young stars be such public faces of your franchise while having incredible seasons, the Mets finally seemed to follow through on their offseason promises of putting a team together that would make Queens proud.
And still, Jed Lowrie was on the 40-man roster. Wasting away and draining $10 million dollars from the payroll.
I should mention the obvious thing here, which is that I don’t hate Jed Lowrie. How can I? The man hasn’t played a game in a Mets uniform. I think it’s something else that creates the off-putting taste in my mouth.
Jed Lowrie was a classic Mets signing, and that makes me sad.
Over the last few years, the Mets have developed a penchant for signing veterans in the twilight of their careers to two-year deals worth way more than their skillset value.
In 2015, the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a 2-year deal worth $21 million, after a solid stint in Colorado. However, his time in black and purple should have been looked at with a shrewd eye. In his second year at Coors, Cuddyer won the NL batting title after posting a .331/.389/.530 and an OPS of .919.
However, the year following that hitting display, Cuddyer only played in 49 games for the Rockies. Thanks to a hamstring injury that forced him out for the majority of the summer, Cuddyer’s production suffered, possibly signaling an incoming decline. Instead, the Mets signed Cuddyer to a deal equal to the amount the Rockies paid him. Cuddyer would play one season for the Mets, but never reached the level of play that would warrant a $10.5 million AAV. He voluntarily retired in 2016.
The next signing of similarity came in the form of Jay Bruce. In 2018, the Mets signed Bruce to a 3-year/$39 million contract. This deal also came after sending the outfielder to Cleveland at the halfway point of the season. The reunion between the Mets and Bruce raised a lot of eyebrows.
Especially when considering the rise of Conforto, the questions surrounding Cespedes, and the albatross of a contract of Juan Lagares. The Mets didn’t need Bruce’s services. But then there was also the Brandon Nimmo of it all.
The Mets did not need another outfielder, and yet here they are signing another to a three-year deal. With Cespedes’ contract on the books, Conforto becoming the face of the future and the ink of Bruce’s deal drying, the Mets created a logjam for Nimmo. Luckily from Nimmo, he would flourish in 2018 as injuries created openings for him in the outfield.
Bruce would then, of course, be dealt in the offseason in the aforementioned Kelenic/Cano deal.
Frazier and Vargas
Even the additions of Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas in hindsight were tough signings. With Vargas posting a 13-14 record, 4.88 ERA, 1.342 WHIP and an ERA+ of 83, the Mets paid $14 million dollars for a below-average arm. That’s it. That’s what happened.
Todd Frazier took his $16 million and also turned in two years below-average production, hitting .233/.316/.418, with an OPS of .734 for the Mets. For a fun metric, his WAR with the Yankees in the second half of 2017 was 1.6, but with the Mets in 2018 he posted a 1.9. Fun! The Mets essentially overpaid for “Chicago White Sox Frazier” without any of the perks.
Let’s get back to my boy Jed.
Jed Lowrie’s 2018 was a surprise to say the least, as the 34-year-old infielder made his first All-Star appearance. Lowrie’s 2018 numbers, when stacked against his averages, appear to be clear outliers. Yet, the Mets seemed to take them as fact. However, it’s completely possible that Lowrie benefited from a sneakily potent Oakland lineup.
Lowrie spent 146 games in 2018 hitting third in the lineup. This meant he was hitting behind the ever consistent Marcus Semien and in front of the long-ball threats of Khris Davis and Matt Olson. Also interspersed within those four hitters was Matt Chapman, who came in 7th for MVP voting, while Lowrie finished 20th. In fact, the two players who were hitting on either side of Lowrie for the majority of the year finished 7th (Chapman) and 8th (Davis) in MVP voting.
When it came to the difference between Lowrie’s 2018 and 2019 numbers, the change came in the production of others around him, not so much his own personal play.
I would argue that Lowrie’s final two seasons in Oakland were worth the $12.5 million they paid him. For the Mets to pay him an additional $7.5 million for the same time frame and hope to get 75% of the production is just wildly optimistic. Unfortunately, that’s something the Mets have trademarked at this point.
Which brings me to final feelings on Jed Lowrie.
I don’t hate the man. I just can’t wrap my head around how many times the Mets will do something like this. Oakland even wanted Lowrie back for 2020, but didn’t want to pay all of his salary. The team that put Lowrie on the map didn’t even want him at the price the Mets paid. The Oakland Athletics are better with Lowrie, whereas the Mets are not.
How many times must we do this, Brodie? How much longer shall we suffer?
I don’t hate you Jed Lowrie. I just don’t like the train you rode in on.
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