2014 Statistics: 136 G, .249/.321/.355, 29 2B, 6 HR, 93 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR
2015 Age: 31 (born 4/17/1984)
This hasn't been in the news much, but the Yankees need a replacement for Derek Jeter at shortstop. The shortstop free agent market isn't exactly booming with possible candidates, but one player who might fit that role is Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie. He should be a familiar name to Yankees fans, as he's been a career American Leaguer during his seven-year stint in the majors. Lowrie came up in the Red Sox system before being traded to the Astros in the ill-fated Mark Melancon deal prior to 2012. After breaking out with the Astros by hitting a career-best 16 homers to go with a 110 wRC+ in 97 games, the A's acquired him in five-player swing just a couple months before Opening Day 2013 in a trade headlined by slugger Chris Carter.
Over the past couple years, Lowrie has capably held down the shortstop position in Oakland for a very good team that won the 2013 AL West title and had the best record in baseball for the majority of the 2014 season before their amusing collapse. Lowrie had a terrific season in 2013, when he hit .290/.344/.446 with 45 doubles, 15 homers, a 120 wRC+, and a career-best 3.5 fWAR in 154 games. Throughout his time in Boston and Houston, there had been questions about Lowrie's durability, as he missed a ton of time due to various ailments, never exceeding 100 games in a season until 2013. Although one could hardly call him Cal Ripken Jr., Lowrie at least has now demonstrated the ability to stay healthy, and a 136-game campaign in 2014 was encouraging as well.
On the other hand, 2014 was a bit of a step back for Lowrie, as he regressed with the bat somewhat, though a 93 wRC+ is still fine for a shortstop. His slugging went down and he didn't hit nearly as many doubles or homers as he did in 2013, which for all we know, could have been a career year. Steamer projects a 2015 season closer to his 2013 at .261/.327/.396 with 30 doubles, 11 homers, and a 104 wRC+, but his power drop in 2014 has to at least be a little concerning. Nonetheless, Lowrie still has a solid reputation at the plate, and the fact that he's a switch-hitter only makes him more enticing.
Lowrie's abilities on defense are even more unclear. The advanced metrics disagreed on him in 2014, when UZR thought he was okay (0.9 UZR/150) but DRS (-10.0) and FRAA (-7.8) were notably less impressed. Among A's fans, a common refrain was "good defense except for the range," which as Jason Wojciechowski noted, is a pretty silly thought. So much of the shortstop's job relies on range, so it seemed like it would be necessary for a shortstop to be considered good on defense. Add in the fact that over the three-year sample from 2012-14, when UZR is best used, it rates him a -1.4 UZR defender, and one can't really be that enthusiastic about his defense.
MLB Trade Rumors projects a three-year, $30 million contract for Lowrie. He wouldn't cost a draft pick, as the A's unsurprisingly did not give him a qualifying offer. I wouldn't be entirely opposed to Lowrie on that contract, but the Yankees are reportedly not high on him. Lowrie doesn't exactly blow me away with his abilities, so if they decide to pass on him, I'll certainly understand.