This Week in the Mets Offseason: Jed Lowrie and What’s Next

Boy oh boy, Brodie had a trick up his sleeve after all.

It seemed like the Mets were essentially finished this offseason besides maybe a few minor league signings, a reliever, and a backup shortstop. In my past articles, I had been clamoring for a backup shortstop that was more of an offensive player that could handle second and third as well.

My suggestion was to bring back Asdrubal Cabrera, who was really a great player for the Mets the past three seasons and constantly proved he could hit while spending plenty of time at second, short, and third.

The biggest reason why I wanted the Mets to sign Cabrera was because I think he is better than Todd Frazier, who I don’t think should be handed the job of starting third baseman and this could create competition at the position as well as allow the Mets to move Frazier to first base while Peter Alonso develops a little more in the minors.

The Mets did not sign Cabrera, but they did fill the role with another player. The Mets surprisingly signed Jed Lowrie on Thursday night according to SNY.TV’s Andy Martino. The move isn’t official as he still needs to pass a physical but the deal is in place.

The contract is reportedly for two years and 20 million dollars, a large figure for a player entering his age 35 season. However, Lowrie has had the best seasons of his career the past two years as he has added power to his game and has become a consistent player at the plate.

Now, Lowrie is expected to be a utility infielder that plays essentially every day at various positions. To begin the season he will likely start at third base while Todd Frazier moves to first and Peter Alonso spends the first month of the year in the minors.

Now, let’s just say Alonso tears it up in AAA and forces the Mets to call him up in late April. This would put the Lowrie signing to the test with Mickey Callaway having to juggle playing time for the young Alonso, and the veterans Lowrie and Frazier.

If Lowrie and Frazier are both hitting the Mets would have to do a time-share between the three players finding 5 starts a week for all of them as well as Cano and Rosario. This would be one of the problems you would like to have.

Once a week, or every other week, Lowrie will start at shortstop to give Rosario a breather. Shortstop is the position Lowrie started his career at, but hasn’t played since 2016 and hasn’t played with regularity since 2014. In 2015 he played at short in 17 games for the Astros and that is all the Mets will ask of him this upcoming season.

This signing is an all-around good signing for the Mets that improves their, already strong, infield depth. However, it does change how the Mets will use Jeff McNeil.

McNeil started the offseason as the favorite to start at second base, then the Mets acquired Robinson Cano, which seemingly shifted him to a utility infielder that would still see regular playing time. Now it seems like he will be the first player off the bench late in games as a pinch hitter that starts against tough righties, and may see some time in the outfield as well.

McNeil proved his worth in the second half of last season, slashing .329/.381/.471, great numbers across 63 games and 248 plate appearances. It is smarter to make McNeil a backup plan behind proven starters like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie. Should any infielder get hurt McNeil will be the first man to step up and that is a great backup option to have.

Another great thing Lowrie will do for the Mets is filling the two-hole in their lineup. The Mets did not have a perfect fit for that spot because Mickey Callaway has openly stated that Robinson Cano will bat third and Brandon Nimmo will bat leadoff. Both players fit nicely in those spots, however, they are both lefties, which makes it hard to put another lefty in the second spot.

Had the Mets not signed Lowrie I would’ve recommended batting Rosario second to add more speed and excitement up at the top of the lineup and a righty between Cano and Nimmo. The other best fit would be Conforto, but he is a lefty making that an awkward placement.

Lowrie is a switch-hitter that has a better career average swinging from the right side of the plate, hitting .276 in 1186 at-bats. However, he has much more power from the left side of the plate as he has 78 home runs in 2798 at-bats as a lefty, and only 26 home runs as a righty. Last season 19 of his 23 home runs came from the left side of the plate.

This gives Mickey Callaway a simpler lineup to construct as the biggest question now should be, who bats cleanup? To me, it should be Conforto. I know he struggled mightily last year and has been an inconsistent player to this point in his career, but he is the Mets best power hitter at the moment.

Todd Frazier has more pure power, but unless he can find his way back to 2015 when he hit .255 then he can’t be trusted high up in the order.

In just 109 games in 2017, he hit 27 home runs and had he stayed healthy he would’ve easily hit 30 home runs. Last year he hit 28 home runs in 153 games, even though he struggled throughout the year he kept his power stroke. Wilson Ramos is a great hitter but has only hit over 20 home runs once, in 2016 when he played in 131 games. He should bat 5th.

  1. RF Nimmo
  2. 3B Lowrie
  3. 2B Cano
  4. LF Conforto
  5. C Ramos
  6. SS Rosario
  7. 1B Frazier
  8. CF Lagares/Broxton
  9. Pitcher

Callaway would probably bat Rosario 9th and move everyone else up a spot, but I think he is due to break out so he should be near the middle of the lineup. The lineup above is long with everyone in the lineup capable of hitting at least 15 home runs. Lowrie truly makes this team better.

What’s Next

When I would do this part of my articles last offseason it was somewhat easy to see what Sandy Alderson would do. He would fill a hole with a cheaper player with upside and hope for the best. With Brodie Van Wagenen at the helm, I’m not so sure what is going to happen.

I thought the trade for Keon Broxton was a signal that the Mets were done making signings above minor league deals or for bench players. All of the best beat reporters in the game that have knowledge of the Mets inner workings were saying that too.

But out of the blue on Thursday, I saw the report from Andy Martino and was shocked, so I’m not going to rule anything out until Spring Training starts.

The Mets still could use a left-handed reliever for the bullpen, but that market may take a while to develop and the Mets will likely wait it out to see if they can get someone they like at a price that they like even better. Keep an eye on Justin Wilson, a solid lefty with experience late in games, finishing 42 games the past two seasons. I would expect him to garner a contract of 1 year for 6 million dollars.

That is the only place of obvious need on the Mets major league roster, though they could use a veteran catcher or two that they could sign to minor league contracts as depth going into the season.

Signing Wilson and two veteran catchers for depth would fill the obvious holes for the Mets and they should make these moves before Spring Training.

However, I again, will make it a point that the Mets should sign AJ Pollock. The Lowrie signing makes Marwin Gonzalez, the other player I wanted the Mets to sign, less useful on the Mets roster. Pollock fits the roster perfectly if the Mets can unload Juan Lagares and his 9 million dollar contract.

Listen, if the Mets could guarantee that Yoenis Cespedes could return before July 31st I wouldn’t be pushing so hard for Pollock because I think the Mets, as currently constructed, can be competitive to that point without needing a boost.

However, if the Mets are buyers at the deadline I think they would be looking for a bat if Cespedes won’t return until September.

To me, the Mets should continue being proactive and spend the money now and worry about the playing time in the outfield if and when Cespedes returns. Right now, the Mets can compete in the NL East, but I would still say the Nationals are the favorites and you could easily argue that the Braves and the Phillies are better than the Mets, with the Phillies still favorites to land Machado or Harper.

If you add Pollock and, say Justin Wilson to the Mets major league roster then I would feel more than comfortable saying the Mets could win the NL East even if everything doesn’t go their way, with the depth they have accumulated this offseason.

A lineup with Pollock instead of Lagares would look like this:

  1. RF Nimmo
  2. 3B Lowrie
  3. 2B Cano
  4. CF Pollock
  5. LF Conforto
  6. C Ramos
  7. SS Rosario
  8. 1B Frazier
  9. Pitcher

Now, that is a scary lineup. Add that to arguably to the best starting rotation in baseball, a good bullpen, a truly strong bench, and minor league depth, the Mets could run the table.

Veteran catchers, Justin Wilson, and AJ Pollock should be what’s next for the Mets.

January 14, 2019

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