The right side of the Detroit Tigers infield in 2021 is still in question. A pair of Lowe’s could solve that issue.
In the last month, we have written some trade ideas for the Detroit Tigers, ranging from acquiring left-fielder Tyler O’Neill, catcher Victor Caratini and third baseman Nolan Arenado. The goal of these articles is to stay grounded in reality and to get creative once in a while.
In this case, I was going to go with the Tampa Bay Rays’ Nate Lowe (pronounced \LOW\), the left hitting first baseman who can also play third. But after a conservation with Ashely MacLennan of DRaysBay, (you can also find her articles at Bless You Boys), it got me thinking of adding Brandon Lowe to the mix, as one of her staff members Jim Turvey wrote a piece about four trades that could make sense for the Rays for Brandon Lowe. I felt it was necessary as Detroit needs a second baseman.
Making the case for Nate Lowe
Looking at the Rays depth chart, you have the platoon of Ji-Man Choi hitting left and Yandy Diaz hitting right. Diaz mainly played third but has had time at first base with the Rays in 2019. When Lowe was called up this season, it was to replace Diaz at 3rd base but with Jeimer Candelario going back (projected) in 2021, Lowe would go back to his original position. Prior to being called up, Lowe spent just five games at third base at Triple-A Durham.
The power potential is there, graded at 50/60 for game power, and Lowe posted an ISO of over .200 throughout his time in the Rays system. In the 169 plate appearances over 50 games in 2019, he hit 7 home runs with an average exit velocity of 91.3. His ISO was .191, just above the league average in 2019 with a wRC+ of 107.
As Lowe advanced throughout the levels, his walk rate has dropped, and so far in the majors, he put up walk rates of 7.7% and 11.8%. However, his strikeouts are what give you pause. So far in 245 plate appearances in two seasons, he has put up strikeout rates of 29.6% and 36.8%. Defensively, he can hold his own, but I watched him last night make an error in the Dominican Winter League. Still, if he has the power potential, I can live with decent defense.
As of right now, Spencer Torkelson is a third base prospect, and outside of Bryant Packard, there is really not much in terms of prospects on the horizon at first base for Detroit. With more big-league at-bats Lowe could adjust and be a solid player with power in the bat. He hit .300/.400/.483 in the minors, so even a potential for average is there.
Making the case for Brandon Lowe
Now I admit, this might be a stretch for the Detroit Tigers. Lowe had a monster year, even getting MVP consideration for the first half he had in 2020, batting .269 with 14 home runs with an OPS+ of 152, but the Rays are not afraid to trade anyone when their value is high and considering the well-stocked Rays system, it could make sense.
You have Vidal Brujan, who may end up playing centerfield but could play second or short, and Xavier Edwards, the shortstop prospect who they acquired from San Diego last year. Brujan is projected to be closer to the majors than Edwards, whose highest level is High-A.
Lowe is 26 years old and signed through 2024 at $4 million per season. Considering the Tigers do not have anyone ready to go in their system at second base, Lowe could provide Detroit with a solid glove, a walk rate near 10% (his career average is 9.6%), and power, with double-digit home run totals in 2019 and 2020. Plus, an upgrade at the position with fWAR of 2.6 in 2019 and 2.3 in 2020.
For Detroit, it would fit the motif that trading for a second baseman may be the best course of action. (See Ian Kinsler, Placido Polanco, Damion Easley) but what would the Tigers have to give up for Brandon or Nate Lowe?
As Jim Turvey points out, the Rays do lack depth at catcher, and with Jake Rogers not even getting an opportunity here, could a fresh start elsewhere work for Rogers? The Rays know how to scout for the talent we may not even know exists unless you are a prospect nerd (see Willy Adames) and make pitchers who were good, even better (see Drew Smyly, Fernando Rodney, Pete Fairbanks).
I am sure the price tag (if there was one) for Brandon Lowe is high but the reason why either could work here in Detroit is that they are both left-handed bats with power and can make solid contact, and they could be around for a few seasons, versus one-year band-aids.
The Detroit Tigers have pushed all the right buttons this off-season so far with A.J Hinch and the staff he has brought in. If they are not excited about the free-agent market, Detroit may have to go the trade route. (Smyly got one year, $11 million from Atlanta)
But…they have Willi Castro and Isaac Paredes!
Yes, I know they could put Isaac Paredes at second base but if they wanted to do that, they would have already done so. Niko Goodrum will be a utility player again so his value will be spread across the field. Just allow yourself to look at the logic behind acquiring either player could benefit Detroit if it is possible. These two names based on their contact and power could be solutions for the 2021 Detroit Tigers’ roster.