The Houston Astros have agreed to a three year deal with shortstop Jed Lowrie which will guarantee him $23 million. Lowrie was previously a member of the Astros in 2012 after the Boston Red Sox traded him along with Kyle Weiland in exchange for Mark Melancon. He spent the last two years with the Oakland Athletics.
The 30 year-old Lowrie has battled injury troubles throughout his seven year big league career. He debuted with the Red Sox in 2008, and made a nice impression, batting .258/.339/.400 in 81 games. Lowrie was limited to just 32 games the next season, and he hit a miserable .147/.211/.265 before landing on the disabled list for the remainder of the year.
2010 was a breakout year of sorts for the shortstop, as he hit .287/.381/.526 but once again injuries hampered him and he played in only 55 games. He still managed to accumulate +2 WAR in that time. The next year he managed only 88 games, and the Sox sent him to the Astros that winter. After a solid season in Houston where he hit 16 home runs and produced +2.5 WAR in only 97 games, the Astros traded him to the A’s with Fernando Rodriguez for Chris Carter, Max Stassi and Brad Peacock.
Lowrie is generally regarded as a poor defensive shortstop who would be best suited at third or second base. While UZR doesn’t grade him too harshly, Defensive Runs Saved rates him as one of the worst shortstops in baseball. The Astros aren’t set on winning this year, so Lowrie will man the shortstop position for them. Top prospect Carlos Correa won’t be ready for the big leagues until 2016 at the earliest.
It’s a little surprising that the Astros had the winning bid for Lowrie. At three years and $23 million, he isn’t getting a big financial outlay. For that price, it seems that a contending team in need of infield help such as the Washington Nationals or Toronto Blue Jays would have signed Lowrie to play second base.
Steamer projects a .258/.325/.397 slash line for Lowrie in 2015 which would be a 105 wRC+. That’s solid offensive production for a shortstop. While Steamer may have an overly optimistic view of Lowrie’s ability to play the position and stay healthy, getting a +2 WAR player for under $8 million a year is a surprise in today’s cash-filled market.