An old saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Well, the Yankees can’t seem to beat Jed Lowrie. The soon-to-be 35-year-old infielder has authored a career .295/.377/.440 batting line against the Yankees over an 11 year span with the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics. After spending his entire career with team rivals, could Lowrie be a fit for the 2019 Yankees?
The short answer is yes, but the specifics get a little complicated. The Yankees need a starting infielder in the wake of Didi Gregorius’ injury, and Lowrie is still a pretty good ballplayer. The former utilityman has settled into a nice role as a full-time second baseman, but he can still play third base and, to a lesser extent, shortstop. His defense has always graded out anywhere from average to slightly above, but his late-career revival with the bat is the most interesting part of Lowrie’s profile.
From 2014-2016, Lowrie’s age 30-32 seasons, he only slashed .248/.317/.354 with just 17 total home runs. But over his last two years in Oakland, Lowrie has bounced back to a player who made his first All-Star team at 34 years old. He’s slashed .272/.356/.448 over his last two seasons, plus swatted 37 home runs in a notorious pitcher’s ballpark. People are taking note of Lowrie’s return to form. He even received a 9th and 10th place vote in the AL MVP voting, good for a 20th place finish.
Lowrie is pretty similar in profile to J.A. Happ. Both players were always pretty good, but nothing special. Then, they put it all together in their mid-30s and got a new lease on their MLB lives. Like Happ, Lowrie wouldn’t be the sleekest addition, but he would be an effective one.
After five years in Oakland over two stints, it seems odd that the A’s have such little interest in bringing him back. A lot of this has to do with the uncertainty around a multi-year contract for an age-35 middle infielder. The A’s also have a former top prospect, Franklin Barreto, ready to take over. Oakland has also been rumored to have some interest in buying low on 34-year-old Troy Tulowitzki, who is much less reliable than Lowrie, but also significantly cheaper. Either way, it seems like Lowrie’s time in Oakland could be up.
Lowrie is entering free agency with a good deal of leverage thanks to his bounceback seasons, but he’s also a reasonably old middle infielder who could decline as he ages. This makes Lowrie’s free agency case pretty interesting. In a world where Jonathan Schoop earned a one-year deal worth $7.5 million from the Minnesota Twins after a down season at age-26, Lowrie will be seeking at least a multiyear contract. He’s never made more than $8 million in a season, and this is Lowrie’s last chance to cash in during free agency. He will probably take the highest offer and run with it.
So, where does that leave Lowrie with the Yankees? They could offer him a spot as a starting second baseman while Gregorius heals. With the team possibly shopping Miguel Andujar in exchange for pitching, Lowrie could also fill in at third base if needed. They’d also offer the championship contender incentive that Lowrie couldn’t get if he signed on with another middling team. You know that Lowrie wants that elusive championship ring, and the Yankees give him a good shot.
While Lowrie would be a great fit for the Yankees this year, they’d probably have to give him a two- or three-year deal to nab him. In an offseason where the Yankees have strayed away from extra years, I wouldn’t expect the Bombers to aggressively pursue Lowrie. But if his market dries up a bit and he wants a spot as a starter on a contending team, Lowrie could come circling back to New York.