Red Sox Catching up with old friends: Jed Lowrie
By Drew Peabody
A profile of former Boston Red Sox first-rounder Jed Lowrie. The infielder had an injury plagued career both in Boston and elsewhere.
Jed Lowrie was one of the more frustrating Boston Red Sox players of the first decade of this century. Lowrie’s trouble staying on the field with the Red Sox was a precursor of a career pattern. Flashes of brilliance were followed with months of time on the shelf.
Lowrie was a star player at Stanford University, a two-time All-American and a Pac-10 player of the year. The Red Sox took Lowrie in the first round of the 2005 draft, the 45th pick overall.
Lowrie excelled at Double-A Portland, earning the Red Sox minor league offensive player of the year honor in 2007. In April 2008, Lowrie was called up to the majors, where he logged 308 plate appearances (PA) while making 49 starts at shortstop. His .739 OPS that year was respectable for a rookie. In the 2008 American League Division series, Lowrie had his most memorable moment in Boston driving in the game winning run in the ninth inning of the series-clinching Game Three win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The next two seasons, 2009 and 2010 were filled with setbacks for Lowrie. In April 2009, Lowrie sustained a sprained wrist which required surgery, limiting him to just 75 PA and an abysmal .475 OPS. 2010 was not much better, health-wise. Lowrie came down with mononucleosis, limiting him to just 197 PA in the majors. He made those PA count though, posting a sizzling .907 OPS, giving a glimpse of what he might become if he could stay healthy.
The Red Sox had signed Marco Scutaro before the 2010 season. Though Lowrie had a great season in limited time, he still had to compete with Scutaro for playing time in 2011. Lowrie could not sustain his 2010 production in 2011, producing only a .685 OPS over 307 PA. After the 2011 Red Sox collapse, the team decided they had had enough of Lowrie, shipping him off to the Houston Astros. Lowrie appeared to be on his way to a full season of production in July when he sustained an ankle injury taking a throw at second base, costing him two months of the season. His production from the year before improved to a .769 OPS (109 OPS+), slugging 16 homers in 396 PA.
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The Astros parted ways with Lowrie after 2012, shipping him off to the Oakland Athletics. The Stanford product was able to stay healthy for the entire 2013 season, posting career bests in PA (662), hits (175) average (.290) and RBI (75). Lowrie’s production slipped to a .676 OPS in 2014 with the Athletics, who let him walk in free agency as they often do.
The Astros must have liked what they saw previously, as they signed him to a three-year, $23 million deal with an option for 2018. After a scorching April (.999 OPS), Lowrie was bitten by the injury bug again, tearing a thumb ligament, costing him three months. When he returned in August, his OPS plummeted to .606 for the remainder of the season.
Houston decided to cut bait on the three year deal they had signed with Lowrie a year earlier, shipping him back to the Oakland Athletics for a minor leaguer. 2016 was another shortened year for Lowrie, who was on the disabled list twice during the season before a bunion shut him down for the season in early August. His .637 OPS in 369 PA might be showing that the years of injuries are eroding his skills.
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It is hard to imagine another team giving him a multi year deal when this one expires after 2017, though if he bounces back this year, he could be trade bait for a contender and has an option for next season. He has just a .480 OPS in 70 postseason PA, however. With a guy named Bogaerts now manning the shortstop position in Boston, no one is pining for Lowrie any longer at Fenway. There are a number of players who can ask what might have been if they could have stayed healthy, and Lowrie can be listed among those.
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