According to Ken Rosenthal, they may be replacing Kinsler with another name. In his latest notes column, he says the Brewers are “showing interest” in Jed Lowrie.
As Rosenthal points out, there’s some level of familiarity at play here — the well-traveled Lowrie was in Houston in 2015, David Stearns’ last year in that organization before he was hired by Milwaukee in September.
Tom Haudricourt adds that Stearns and the Brewers have long been interested in the utility man who has spent most of his time at second base in recent years:
Stearns connection to Lowrie from Houston is there. #Brewers have liked him for some time. Would want more than one year like all the other FA second basemen, which does not excite #Brewers with prospect Keston Hiura coming. But they might have no choice on this market. https://t.co/Q1i9Vcgh0d— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 15, 2018
The Brewers were mentioned as a potential landing spot for Lowrie last winter, too, when Oakland was weighing the idea of dumping the $6 million he was going to be due in 2018.
Lowrie’s been a favorite of the analytics crowd for some time, and it makes sense that he’s spent his career in organizations that tend to lean that way in Boston, Houston and Oakland, serving two stints each for the latter two, including the past three seasons with the A’s.
At 34, Lowrie made his first All-Star team this past season, ending the year with a .267/.353/.448 line with 23 home runs and 37 doubles. He slowed down considerably in the second half after a .285/.357/.492 (.849 OPS) start that landed him that All-Star spot, but he stilled finished strong enough to get some downballot AL MVP votes.
Still, Lowrie has flown under the radar for much of his career. Part of that is the time he’s spent out of the spotlight in Oakland, and you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that he’s put up fWAR totals of 3.6 and 4.9 over the past two years, with only Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez totaling more among second basemen in that time.
Perhaps most appealing to the Brewers as they wait for Keston Hiura to arrive in the majors: Lowrie has a history of playing multiple positions. While Oakland has used him mostly at second base over the past two years, he has played a handful of games at third base in that time, and does have experience at shortstop — although he hasn’t played in a full game there since 2015 and hasn’t played the position for more than a handful of games since 2014.
As a switch-hitter, Lowrie is also versatile with the bat, and while he’s better as a left-handed hitter, he’s not a liability on the other side of the plate, either. In 2018 he hit .273/.365/.477 against right-handed pitching and .254/.327/.386 against left-handed pitching. He’s definitely a weaker hitter from the right side against lefties, but considering he plays a middle infield position he’s not exactly a black hole, either.
Considering he’ll be 35 in 2019 and the fact they may be anticipating Hiura being in the big leagues in the next year or so, the Brewers would likely prefer to sign Lowrie for one year, but as Haudricourt notes — and using Kinsler as a guide — it’ll likely take a two-year offer to get Lowrie to sign.
Even if Hiura debuted and took a hold of the second base job in 2019 (we should probably remember that this is no guarantee), Lowrie’s ability to occasionally spell Travis Shaw at third base or maybe even stand in at shortstop for a few games could make him a valuable bench piece if the Brewers had to make a multiple-season commitment to him.
MLB Trade Rumors speculated that at Lowrie’s age, not only would he be looking for more than one year, but he may even be looking for a three-year contract, projecting him for a 3-year, $30 million deal. If that’s the case, that may end up being a dealbreaker for Stearns and the Brewers, especially if they don’t have plans to start him long-term.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs