HOUSTON,TX-JUNE 05: Jed Lowrie #4 of the Houston Astros grounds out in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 5, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Let me preface this by saying that I am not in favor of trading Jed Lowrie, however, the Astros have said just about everyone is on the table. So in the spirit of due diligence we'll take a look at the five teams with the most need for Jed Lowrie's services. This list doesn't eliminate teams from trading for him, instead it highlights teams with the biggest need at shortstop.
Before we dive into my methodology, I'd like to make note that just about every team would upgrade their shortstop position if they traded for Lowrie. Not only does Lowrie lead the league in wOBA (.369) for shortstops with a minimum of 70 plate appearances but he's also second in WAR (2.5) for shortstops behind Elvis Andrus (2.9).*
*Stats are prior to Tuesday's games
For reference a league average shortstop is batting around a.300 wOBA and posting about a 1.2 WAR overall.
As mentioned above, there are several teams that could probably use Lowrie, maybe even at second base or third base and that would certainly change the list below (maybe I'll do a follow up article regarding that), but Lowrie isn't terrible defensively at shortstop and so to maximize his value I've stuck with looking at teams with a shortstop need. Another thing I want to note is that I've avoided number the teams in order because all the teams discussed below could be interchanged with different factors taken in. I only looked at who the team has currently used and what we could possibly expect in the future. Other variables such as strength of farm system and shortstop prospects could move some of these teams around on the list.
I began searching for teams by looking at wOBA, but quickly realized that unlike the Carlos Lee article I couldn't just look at offense I had to take defense into account because shortstop is a premium defense position. So I then began searching for teams by WAR, which takes into account both offense and defense. Interestingly enough two of the five teams I found have 1-2 WAR from their shortstops, while the seventh team has a .5 WAR.
WAR is not a predictive stat, but it's a great starting point for finding a team with a need at shortstop.
One team not highlighted below, but could really use Lowrie, is the Los Angeles Angels who have a struggling Erick Aybar. Acquiring Lowrie would certainly be an upgrade for the Angels, however, Aybar has a decent track record with WAR totals between 1.4 and 4 since 2008.
Another team is the New York Mets who have pieced together the loss of Jose Reyes with guys like Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla, Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner. Overall they've gotten 2 WAR out of their shortstops. Not great, but it's better than the other teams below.
And yet another team is the Pittsburgh Pirates who have gotten little offensively out of Clint Barmes -- he's still playing above average defense. The Pirates alternative to Barnes is Josh Harrison who has been playing some short and while he's not at Barmes level defensively he's providing above average defense and average offense, with a .261 BABIP.
Chicago White Sox - 39-35
Alexei Ramirez has started just about every game for the Chicago White Sox. The past two seasons he's posted WAR numbers above four. So why is he on this list?
He's been bad both defensively and offensively this season. A big component of his WAR has been his defense and base running. He's been below average defensively so far this year and he can't improve his base running numbers if he's only getting on at a .270 clip. He could rebound, but he's also 33 in September and its likely that his better days are behind him.
Ramirez still has quite a bit of money left on his contract so I doubt he's moved. It does make for an interesting trade scenario, though. The Astros could package Jed Lowrie and Wandy Rodriguez to the White Sox for Ramirez and prospects. The Astros would be buying low on Ramirez, while selling high on Lowrie, alleviating some concerns regarding Wandy's contract, while acquiring some prospects.
Tampa Bay Rays - 40-34
I kept flip flopping the Rays and Mets, before finally settling on the Rays for this spot because of the difference in WAR totals. Like the Mets, the Rays have pieced together a combination of Ellito Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and a sprinkling of Reid Brignac.
Rodriguez has spent the most time at short, 241 PA, and has provided positive defensive value but below average offensive value for a .4 WAR. Johnson has spent 188 PA at short and has provided good offensive numbers but bad defensive numbers for a .9 WAR. Brignac only has 18 PA at short so we'll forgo his numbers.
Overall the team has a .291 wOBA, a .287 BABIP and a 1.2 WAR. Lowrie would be a nice low cost move for the Rays; they have the prospects to make a deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers - 43-32
I swear there's not a Dodger highlight I don't watch that doesn't have Dee Gordon some where in it. What's not to love he's the son of former Major League pitcher Tom Gordon and man is he fast. He's the flashy player everyone loves, the only problem is that he's been bad defensively and below average offensively.
In 293 PA, Gordon has provided below average offense and defense at shortstop, this season he's posted a -.7 WAR. Justin Sellers whose split time between short and second base has had much better defensive results and his offense while still below average was better than Gordon's. Unfortunately, Sellers has been on the disabled list since late May and even if he weren't I imagine Gordon would still be getting a majority of the time at short.
Overall the Dodgers have a .265 wOBA, .286 BABIP and a -.5 WAR. Even with Lowrie being a huge upgrade I don't know that the Dodgers would be willing to replace the 24 year old Gordon.
San Francisco Giants - 42-33
The Giants have used two players so far this season at short, Brandon Crawford and Joaquin Arias. Neither have been good offensively, but both have been average to above average defensively. Crawford has gotten the most time and also has the better defensive numbers.
Crawford has been worth .4 WAR and Arias has been replacement level. Lowrie would be a huge upgrade over both. Overall the Giants have a .262 wOBA, a .278 BABIP and a .6 WAR at the shortstop position.
Arizona Diamondbacks - 37-36
A team with Willie Bloomquist spending a majority of the team at a position and John McDonald filling in from time to time will always jump to the head of the line at that position as far as need. That's what the Diamondbacks have at one of the most important positions on the field.
Both Bloomquist and McDonald are veteran reserve infielders. The Diamondbacks have gotten more WAR out of the position than some of the other teams mentioned here, but that's largely due to BABIP and small sample size issues.
Bloomquist has been below average defensively and average offensively, both are right around his career marks. His .363 BABIP is a bit concerning, but he's walking less and striking out more so as those level out he'll probably still be right around average. Still the Diamondbacks can't expect to contend with a 34 year old reserve infielder starting at a premium position.
McDonald is three years older than Bloomquist and provides average to above average defense, but below average offense. So far this season McDonald has a .320 wOBA with a .268 BABIP, his career BABIP is .269 so I don't know how much positive regression we can expect in his offensive numbers. His .221 ISO is well above his career .093 so I don't expect that to continue. All in all, 92 PA is a small sample size, he's a better defensive option but a worse offensive option despite his power surge this year.
Overall the Diamondbacks have a .313 wOBA, with a .340 BABIP and a 1.1 WAR total. Unless the Diamondbacks acquire someone I expect their shortstop situation to deteriorate as the season plays out.
EDIT: Complete missed Stephen Drew returning from the disabled list, this evening as a matter of fact. There's been some grumblings from one of the owners regarding Drew's dedication to the team in his free agent year (2013 is a mutual option, Scott Boras is agent), so there's that. Drew certainly makes the Diamondbacks less needy for a shortstop.