Jeff Lunow’s first trade as Houston Astros GM ended Jed Lowrie’s first stint as their shortstop.
Luhnow’s biggest free agent acquisition this winter has brought Lowrie back for a second.
After signing a three-year, $21 million deal on Monday, Lowrie, 30, was introduced by Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday.
“Can’t explain how excited I am to be back,” Lowrie said. “I felt like I left with maybe a little unfinished business, so I’m happy to be back, and I feel like it’s an exciting time to be an Astro.”
Lowrie, entering his eighth big league season, spent 2012 with the Astros after coming over in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, where Lowrie was a first round pick in the 2005 draft. Before the 2013 season, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in a deal that netted Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and a minor leaguer.
Luhnow was hired just two months earlier.
Lowrie’s time in Oakland, his first two seasons as an everyday player, was a mixed bag. After a career year in 2013, Lowrie slashed .249/.321/.355 in 136 games last season with only six home runs and 50 RBI.
But Lowrie fared well in his only season in Houston, hitting for a low average but good power and getting on base at a healthy .344 clip. Lowrie’s 16 home runs in only 97 games that season remain his career high.
That versatility makes for a lot of options for Lowrie in the Astros lineup, new manager A.J. Hinch said.
“He really can fit in in a lot of different areas,” Hinch said. “There’s an on-base component that screams toward the top of the lineup. There’s a power component to him that would have him more in an RBI situation. Being a switch-hitter it gives a lot of flexibility to how you want to set the lineup up.”
Among Lowrie’s top selling points, Luhnow said, is his leadership. When asked why, given the Astros struggles at the position and Lowrie’s experience, Lowrie wouldn’t be used at third base, Luhnow said he considers shortstop to be a leadership position, and that he signed Lowrie to be just that.
Luhnow said during exit interviews with players following the 2012 season, just after Luhnow was brought on as GM, Lowrie was identified as one of the team’s top leaders among everyday players.
“I know he’s got the leadership capability inside of him,” Luhnow said. “It’s probably only gotten better since he’s been over at Oakland and seen a lot of different things and been on a team that made it to the playoffs two years in a row. So I’m really excited about — he’s won a championship with Boston, he’s been to the playoffs twice with Oakland. He’s got that winning gene in his blood.”
Lowrie’s signing caps a modest offseason for Luhnow and the Astros, who last week signed veteran relievers Luke Gregerson (3/$18.5M) and Pat Neshek (2/$12.5) to multi-year contracts in an attempt to improve baseball’s worst bullpen. The moves come one month after final proceedings in the CSN Houston bankruptcy reorganization case.
That commitment was among the reasons he chose to sign here, Lowrie said.
“You look at the young talent that has been acquired, and now the willingness to go out and invest in some veteran players and veteran presence to add to that young talent, I think that’s how you sustain success in this game,” Lowrie said.
Among the other factors were how early and aggressively the Astros pursued him — Houston was the first team to have reported interest in his services — and the team’s roster and facilities.
“This is a great place to play,” Lowrie said. “The stadium is beautiful. It’s a great fan base with a ton of potential. Once we start winning, it will be one of the best environments in the game.”
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