Blue Jays 2015 Year in Review: Mark Lowe


The July 31st trade deadline was a whirlwind for Blue Jays fans. One of the more underrated trades was the addition of right hand relief pitcher Mark Lowe. In the final moments of the deadline, Lowe was sent to the Blue Jays for Jake Brentz, Nick Wells, and Rob Rasmussen. Lowe enjoyed a career year pitching for both the Mariners and Blue Jays out of the Bullpen, and is set to enter Free Agency in the winter. Lowe’s addition definitely strengthened the Blue Jays bullpen down the second half stretch.

Lowe, for most of his career, has been a AAAA pitcher. Just as his debut with the Seattle Mariners began in 2006, it drastically changed when he was placed on the 60-day disabled list late in the year. Lowe would undergo arthroscopic surgery at the end of the season, and would miss more than half of the 2007 season. Lowe would be ranked within the top ten of the Mariners prospect list entering 2008. Although he would crack the Major League roster in ’08 and ’09, Lowe wouldn’t post comparable numbers anywhere close to 2015.

Lowe would find himself on six different teams before landing back on Seattle in 2015. He would be un-hittable in the first half of this season, pitching 28 innings, striking out 37 and only allowing 2 earned runs, to a 0.64ERA! It seemed like every time the Blue Jays faced Lowe, Lowe would go onto another level, pitching 4.1 innings, 0 earned runs, and striking out 6. The second half of the season wasn’t as stellar, pitching 27 innings, striking out 24, and allowing 10 earned runs to a 3.33ERA. Although Lowe’s second half wasn’t as good, his overall season numbers were good enough to prove his contract worth entering free agency. But will the Blue Jays see him back next season?

The Good

Obviously Lowe’s first half with the Mariners was amazing, but focusing on his work with the Jays, Lowe put up pretty sub-par results to what was expected. Lowe was expected to be a flame throwing strike out machine out of the bullpen, but numbers and expectations aside, Lowe still added depth throughout the bullpen. No team has ever complained about having an abundance of competent throwing righties on the back end. Lowe and his deadly slider induced enough ground balls to make this trade worth it for the Blue Jays

The Bad

In Lowe’s first start with the Blue Jays against the Royals, he would throw 1 inning allowing 3 earned runs (more in one starting than he had all year) and lose the game. As I said before, the expectations for Lowe were much higher than he performed. It may have been due to his improper use at time, and unfortunately for Lowe, the same time he was traded to the Jays was the same time Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil became dominant in the back end of the bullpen. Cecil, being left handed, gave him a playing time advantage over both pitchers. As for Sanchez, this was his spot from last year, a position he dominated. There was simply not enough space for Lowe at some times, being shifted into the 7th inning spot. With David Price and Marco Estrada eating innings with almost every start, it seemed like getting Lowe into positions for him to succeed became more and more difficult.

The Future

Mark Lowe’s 2015 numbers will be very interesting for some GM’s entering free agency, but will the Blue Jays put out the money to resign him? The Blue Jays bullpen is never a huge investment for them, paying ten relievers $6,014,564, 4.35% of their entire payroll. Compared to a team like the Astros, who’s payroll is $81,375,835, the Astros pay their relievers just under $20 million, almost a quarter of their payroll.

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Looking back at previous free agents who had similar numbers, age group, and track record to Lowe, he could potentially sign a contract for 2yr/10mil plus a 6 million dollar team option. If his track record is worrisome to some teams, a 1yr/4.5mil plus a 5.5 million dollar team option is likely. Alex Anthopoulos’ track record suggest that signing high priced relievers isn’t likely, Anthopoulos works more along the lines of, ‘If I have a ton of low priced relievers, some of them will hopefully rise to the top.’ Quantity over pricey quality.

If Mark Lowe forces a high priced contract, it will difficult to see him coming back. Depending on what the Blue Jays think of Aaron Sanchez, Roberto “please stay a closer” Osuna and Drew Hutchinson moving forward. Maybe the Blue Jays will be interested in signing Lowe on a shorter term deal if the dollars make sense. There will be fringe playoff teams interested in signing Lowe to solidify the back end of their bullpens. Some of those teams might overpay for someone who, quite frankly, has only one proven year of pitching to jaw dropping numbers. Lowe is definitely a risk. If he reverts back to his old numbers, that contract can look disastrous. If his success continues at the right price, than he’s worth every risk.

Stats Provided by Fangraphs

Next: 2015 Review - Matt Hague

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