The Mets signed Jed Lowrie to a two year, $20 million dollar contract in the offseason in what was supposed to be a savvy veteran addition to supplement an already talented depth of infield. Instead, Lowrie has provided the Mets six feeble plate appearances as the club winds down the season. The funds committed to the 36 year old become even more unbearable when you consider that even if he does manage to get healthy for next season, his mere presence means that the Mets best hitter is playing out of position. Signing Lowrie was either a panic move by Brodie VanWagenen or an ill-advised investment in the prospect of the designated hitter being introduced to the National League. Either way, the move is just a fraction of the larger picture that represents the ineptitude of roster management.
So, what would Lowrie have been able to contribute anyway? Would his presence have made a difference in what should be considered a major disappointment of a season for the Mets? The short answer is ‘no.’ According to Zips, Lowrie was projected for a 2.1 fWar across a long and lustrous season. That level of production (a drop from his 5.0 fWar of 2018), would have placed the infielder 10th on the current roster which is tied with J.D. Davis and 0.3 points away from Todd Frazier. So, to recap, the Mets had Todd Frazier signed through the end of the 2019 season and went out to acquire a Todd Frazier equivalent for an additional season, while expecting the two to co-exist productively. This doesn’t even factor in that J.D. Davis can effectively fill the same role as Lowrie at a fraction of the cost, all while Jeff McNeil is left to wonder what he needs to do for a little bit of positional consistency.
At multiple stages through the 2019 season there were reports that Lowrie was progressing through rehab. However it never truly felt transparent as to what was exactly wrong with the journeyman, who at one point was described as having a ‘left side’ injury. Considering that one of the advantages to signing Lowrie was his plus glove (he owned a 6.1 UZR at second base in 2018), it is of major concern that he spent an entire year on the IL. What will a year removed from the game and a left side injury do to his range, speed and footwork?
If there is a sign of hope, then it comes in the form of Lowrie’s plate discipline. There is a metric called wPDI (weighted plate discipline index) which was inspired by the Greg Maddux philosophy that ‘the key to pitching is to throw a strike when the batter isn’t going to swing, and to throw a ball when the batter will swing.’ In looking at it from the batter’s perspective, you can measure a batter’s consistency at swinging at pitches in the zone and avoiding pitches outside of the zone with wPDI. In 2018, Lowrie ranked 11th in the majors in this regard with a wPDI of .743. For context, Joey Votto topped the chart with .769 mark. Lowrie’s plate discipline should hopefully not diminish due to time or injury and could prove to be an asset for the club next year.
Every Met fan would sign the dotted line for a healthy and semi-productive Jed Lowrie in 2020, even if it’s in a utility bench-like role. It possible that a combination of his leadership, defense and plate discipline actually age well and prove to be of value for the club. At this stage the expectations should be very low with any level of production a pleasant surprise. In the background, this contract should be a learning lesson to Brodie VanWagenen and his new motley crew of advisors to not give out contracts to aging players. The Jed Lowrie experiment failed, but there are still lessons to be learned from it.