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Jed Lowrie and the Blue Jays: BBB Staff Free Agent Picks

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The BBB Staff Free Agent Picks did not result in any signings last year, but hope endures. First up is Nick's pick.

Rick Yeatts

For readers who missed the first "BBB Staff Free Agent Picks" last year, the idea is simple. Writers from Bluebird Banter were asked which free agent they would most like the Blue Jays to sign in order to improve the team and give some rationale as to why. The only restriction is that the pick has to be "within reason" financially, so don't expect anyone advocating for Jon Lester, although he would undoubtedly be a great guy to have.

Last year, I made the case for Scott Kazmir, but apparently Alex Anthopoulos wasn't listening. I'm sure he's become a loyal BBB reader since then so the plea for Jed Lowrie should be more successful.

When choosing my preferred free agent the first thing I looked at was the Blue Jays' biggest holes.

With the impending departure of Melky Cabrera, outfield is a definite concern, but they do have some young bodies there that could potentially do the job. No one is thrilled about a potential Anthony Gose/Kevin Pillar platoon, but it's cheap and has potential to be surprisingly serviceable, especially if there is more in Pillar's bat than he's shown.

Where the Jays have absolutely no talent to speak of is at second base. In theory, they could move Lawrie there if they picked up a quality third baseman, but I personally don't like the idea of wasting his arm and putting him in the line of fire with sliding runners. If the season started today the Jays would probably use Maicer Izturis at the keystone.

Izturis is 34-years-old, he's coming off a serious knee injury, and the last time he was healthy he was arguably the worst player in the league (-2.2 WAR). Let that information sink in.

It's pretty clear that the team needs a new second baseman. While Lowrie is more of a shortstop, he's played at second in the past and is willing to do so going forward. In previous years he had a reputation for being fragile and the type of guy who wasn't quite an everyday player, but he's appeared in 290 games over the last two years with the A's.

When he has played he's produced. The table below show's Lowrie's numbers over the last three years and where they would rank among MLB second basemen during that period.

BB%

K%

ISO

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

8.9% (10th)

14.6% (13th)

.147 (12th)

.265 (17th)

.333 (13th)

.412 (10th)

108 (10th)

7.9 (12th)

These are not the numbers of a star, but they are the numbers of an above-average starter. They compare rather favorably to what the Jays have got from the position over the last three years.

Player

BB%

K%

ISO

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

Jed Lowrie

8.9%

14.6%

.147

.265

.333

.412

108

7.9

Jays' Second Basemen

6.8%

20.8%

.104

.231

.288

.335

70

-0.3

These hitting numbers also come with a glove that UZR likes as about average at SS (-0.3/150) and second (1.6/150) over the course of Lowrie's career, which isn't Goinsian, but will do just fine.

While these numbers look ideal, free agent deals buy future performance, not past performance. As Lowrie enters his thirties he is likely to decline and 7.9 WAR is not a fair projection for him over the next three years.

However, with the free agent market humming along at approximately $7 million per win, Lowrie's price tag will not reflect a 7.9 WAR projection over the next three years. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs has him signing a 2-year $22 million deal (with the Jays as it happens) and the prognosticators at CBS Sports peg him at three years and $27-30 million.

I would pay either of those prices. If you give Lowrie $30 million over three years you are hoping a guy who produced just under eight WAR in his last three seasons can give you just over four in his next three. That strikes me as a pretty good bet.

The 30-year-old may be a slight injury risk, but he's proven in his tenure with Oakland that the "fragile" tag that has followed him around might be inaccurate at this point. He isn't necessarily an impact player, but considering what the Jays have at second base he would be an impact upgrade.

Lowrie is a player whose value could be unfairly depressed by a perception about his durability that may not be reflected in recent reality. Additionally, coming off a so-so year (93 wRC+, 1.9 WAR) he's something of a buy-low candidate. Perhaps more than anything else it would be fun to have Lowrie and Lawrie in the same infield.

My opening offer: I would be happy to offer Lowrie the 2-year $22 million that Dave Cameron predicts he'd sign for, but I suspect he will need a third year on the table and I'd go as high as three years and $29 million relatively early in negotiations to show I'm serious.

I'm not tipping my hand as to exactly how much farther I'd go, but it's safe to say there is a little bit of wiggle room there on my end.