What to expect from Jed Lowrie in 2022

Not gonna lie. On Saturday morning, I planned on waking up and writing a blog titled, ‘Is this the end for Jed Lowrie and Mike Fiers?’ But then there was some late breaking news Friday night. According to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris, Lowrie is coming back to the A’s on a one-year contract.  The Bay Area News Group’s Shayna Rubin reported it is a major league deal.

Oakland’s front office is really turning back the clock with its latest moves. Earlier in the day, A’s fan favorite Stephen Vogt met the media in Arizona for the first time since rejoining on a one-year contract. 

Lowrie and Vogt are both 37. They both joined the A’s before the 2013 season and helped them make back-to-back playoff runs. Nearly a decade later, the duo will serve as something of player-coaches for first-year manager Mark Kotsay.

Upon rejoining the A’s for his third tour of duty last spring on a minor-league deal, Lowrie told reporters, “This place feels like home.” 

Lowrie’s first stint in The Town came in 2013-14 and he returned in 2016-18. The A’s and Lowrie just can’t quit each other. Jed has played 826 of his 1,257 career games (65.7 percent) with Oakland, as it’s the only franchise where he’s ever put together a 100-game season.

The A’s had an opening on their 40-man roster. Last season, he overcame leg injuries that relegated him to just eight plate appearances in two years (and for $20 million, as Mets fans will remind you on Twitter) to start the campaign as the A’s everyday second baseman. 

In 2021, Lowrie slashed .245/.318/.398 with 14 homers, 69 RBI, 28 doubles, 49 walks and 109 strikeouts. His 101 OPS+ 101 and 100 wRC+ suggest he was the definition of an average hitter last year, which the A’s will take. Beggars can’t be choosers at this point, so David Forst was probably just happy to get the OK to bring in someone with a pulse.

Lowrie possesses one of the best strike-zone judgments in baseball, as his chase rate was in the 92nd percentile, according to Baseball Savant. He also ranked in the 76th percentile for hard hit percentage (45.9) and 75th percentile for average exit velocity (90.3), which were his highest such figures since the Statcast era started in 2015. There are probably plenty of doubles still stored up in that bat.

The biggest problem for Lowrie last year was mobility, as you could tell his surgically-repaired knee bothered him. His range in the field was severely limited and his minus-11 defensive runs saved was tied for the worst among MLB second baseman. You could see Lowrie laboring as he rounded the bases, especially around the end of the year. His sprint speed ranked among the bottom 20th percentile of the league. 

Once Josh Harrison arrived at the trade deadline last year, Lowrie moved into a primary designated hitter role. Given his health concerns and Tony Kemp’s emergence, DH is probably the best spot for Lowrie this season. It will be interesting to see if he and Vogt figure into the situation at first base, too. At this point, it would probably behoove the A’s to play Lowrie at second base only when necessary. 

Still, you have to be impressed by the fact he played in 139 games and made 512 plate appearances last year, even though his final week was spent on the injured list with a sprained right hand. If Lowrie can approach those numbers again in 2022, that’d probably be best-case scenario. 

The departures of Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson left a massive void in terms of on-field talent but also in leadership. Those three guys were key in determining the quality clubhouse culture that’s necessary when you’re playing in Oakland and for tight-fisted owner John Fisher. 

The cynic in me also thinks the reunions with fan favorites like Lowrie and Vogt are a cheap way for Fisher to try and build goodwill with the disgruntled fanbase after the offseason sell-off. Whatever the reason, Lowrie and Vogt will be very, very welcome additions to the locker room that’s likely to go through some rough patches this year. 

“I was ecstatic to hear that there was interest from Oakland,” Vogt said. “Just to come back and be in this uniform with these guys, and have a chance to go back to the Bay and represent the A’s, I couldn’t be more honored and excited to be coming back.”