Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen signing Jed Lowrie to become the team’s starting third baseman never really made sense six months ago. It makes even less sense now.
Lowrie continues his glacial recovery from a left knee capsule sprain and left hamstring strain in the Mets minor-league facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 35-year-old infielder sustained the knee injury in the first week of spring training, and the hamstring setback occurred last month while he rehabbed in games with Triple-A Syracuse.
Coming off an All-Star year with the Oakland A’s, Lowrie has yet to make a Major League appearance for the Mets. He signed with the club on a two-year, $20 million deal in January. In his absence, Mets everyday third baseman Todd Frazier is batting .315 with a .947 OPS, 13 RBI, four homers, five doubles and a whole lot of clubhouse leadership over his last 27 games entering Thursday.
Prior to the Mets’ 68th game of the season, a series opener against the Cardinals at Citi Field, skipper Mickey Callaway was questioned for an update on the wounded Lowrie. When asked if there is anything new to report on Lowrie’s recovery, Callaway hurriedly said, “No, no.”
“(Lowrie is) not close to being in games yet,” Callaway said.
Somewhat encouraging is the fact that Lowrie is doing baseball activities in Florida. He’s fielding ground balls and hitting, but the infielder is still trying to feel comfortable enough to compete in a professional game.
Lowrie is coming up on a month since his latest setback with a hamstring strain. The infield outlook was quite different for the Mets in early May. Frazier was batting .143 with seven RBI, two homers and 17 strikeouts over his first 16 games after a late start to the season due to a left oblique strain. The Mets were splitting time between Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis, abstaining from the usage of an everyday third baseman.
When Lowrie went 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk and two runs scored vs. Columbus on May 10, there was enthusiasm in the Mets clubhouse for the 35-year-old to finally join the big-league team. Five weeks later, Lowrie is not even on the forefront of a die-hard Mets fan’s mind. To top it off, the Mets skipper feels, largely, the same way.
“To tell you the truth, I’ve been really focused on the 25 guys here,” Callaway said. “I know that (Lowrie) is in good hands down there. Obviously we check in from time to time. But I think that he’s gotta go through this process and get himself where he can be 100 percent to come up and help us.”
Lowrie’s latest update makes it sound like the Mets do not expect him to return before the All-Star break. All of which puts Lowrie in the category of useless offseason acquisitions for GM Van Wagenen. The Mets would have been better served going after a big-name, free-agent reliever (Craig Kimbrel, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson) to steady the Mets bullpen.
The focus, instead, was lower-budget and lower-ranked signings for Van Wagenen and the Mets front office. The agent-turned-GM targeted old friends like Jeurys Familia, who returned to the Mets on a three-year, $30-million contract in December. Left-hander Justin Wilson, who is currently rehabbing ailing left elbow soreness, signed a two-year, $10 million deal in late January.
The Mets longingly hoped a relief corps that ranked 28th in the Majors in ERA last season would be bolstered with pitcher signings that were hardly the cream of the crop on the free-agent market.