The Athletics announced Wednesday that infielder Jed Lowrie is returning to the organization on a minor league contract. The Excel Sports client will be in Major League Spring Training and compete for a job.
Lowrie, 37 in April, rejoins the A’s on the heels of a disastrous two-year stint with the Mets — one which fans would surely prefer to forget. It was an unexpected match at the time, but now-former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen signed Lowrie to a two-year, $20MM contract in his first season in charge of baseball operations for the Mets. New York already had a largely full infield mix, but Van Wagenen nevertheless brought in one of his former clients — surely in hopes of cultivating the type of depth that is so often seen on today’s championship clubs. As a switch-hitter capable of playing all four infield slots, it was reasonable to expect that Lowrie could provide value in a semi-regular role, even if there wasn’t a clear-cut starting position available to him.
As it turned out, though, Lowrie only tallied seven plate appearances over his two years with the team. A knee injury suffered in Spring Training 2019 wound up costing him nearly the entire season. It also set in motion a bizarre chain of non-updates on Lowrie’s medical status.
Even with a new front-office regime and new manager in place, the Mets were as vague and nebulous as ever in divulging information about Lowrie’s ailments. Timelines were always presented in muddy fashion, and the eventual reveal of Lowrie’s diagnosis proved similarly perplexing when Van Wagenen revealed this past summer that Lowrie had “posterior cruciate ligament laxity” in his left knee. Lowrie did not play in 2020.
While the circus-like nature of his tenure in New York is something both Lowrie and the Mets surely hope to put behind them, it should of course be pointed out that a healthy Lowrie is a very fine player. Lowrie landed that $20MM deal with the Mets after turning in a .272/.356/.448 batting line in 1325 plate appearances with Oakland from 2017-18. That performance earned him an All-Star nod in ’18.
Injuries have slowed Lowrie throughout his career, but from 2012-18 he was a decidedly above-average hitter, slashing .264/.338/.415 in more than 3500 plate appearances despite the bulk of those PAs coming at Oakland’s cavernous home park. He’s never been an especially strong defender at any position but has been playable at shortstop, second base and third base throughout his career. It’s unlikely that he can still handle shortstop at age 37 and with two seasons of knee injuries behind him, but Lowrie ought to be in the mix to win a roster spot and take at-bats at second base.