Holiday Mailbag: Derek Lowe


(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Several people asked: What about a Derek Lowe reunion?

I hadn’t thought too much about Lowe this offseason until writing this MLBTR post last week, which is when a few people emailed in. The 39-year-old sinkerballer has fielded calls from five teams this winter, but all five want him as a swingman. He’s looking for a job as a starter though, which is what he said after the ALCS.

The Yankees have Ivan Nova and David Phelps ready to compete for the fifth starter’s job in camp, and while I would like to see them add a veteran starter for that role, I was thinking someone better than Lowe (coughShaunMarcumcough). There are six bullpen spots already accounted for: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Aardsma, and Clay Rapada. The final spot figures to go to a long-man and the loser of the Nova/Phelps role makes sense for that role, but I don’t think we should rule out a return to Triple-A for that pitcher either. Especially if one of the two gets his brains beat in during Spring Training.

Right-hander Cody Eppley and left-hander Cesar Cabral are also candidates for that final spot, but Eppley has minor league options left and Cabral isn’t expected back until May-ish following his elbow fracture. They’re depth pieces more than Opening Day bullpen guys. I could totally see a trade (Joba? Logan? Robertson?) opening up another bullpen spot, but that’s just my speculation. There haven’t been any rumors of New York shopping or even discussing their bullpen arms. It would make sense though, especially with Logan one year away from free agency and coming off a career-high workload and league-leading appearance total.

The Yankees are expected to “bottom-feed” for pitching depth later this offseason and Lowe fits the bill. He had a nice little run in the bullpen last year (3.04 ERA and 3.77 FIP in 23.2 innings) but has been a pretty ineffective in the rotation for more than three years now (4.73 ERA and 3.99 FIP since 2009). Then again, we’re talking about a potential seventh starter here, maybe even an eighth starter if Adam Warren or Brett Marshall makes a statement in Triple-A early in the season. I’d be totally cool with the Yankees bringing Lowe back on a minor league contract for a swingman role, but I don’t like the idea of guaranteeing him a contract or a roster spot.

Categories : Mailbag


  1. thunder rd runner says:

    Bottom feeding indeed…. would much rather see a young developing pitcher in this role.

  2. Yankee insider says:

    What about LHP Dallis Braden you can sign him to a multiyear MiLB contract and he can replace pettitte next year A’s a 2nd LHP starter. Although he would be more of a 4-5 guy. There’s also alot of trade opportunities like LHP Drew Smyly on the tigers could be a target who has six great pitches: FB/CB/SL/CFB/SNK/CU which all work for him very well. So basically though bottom feeding could also possibly mean someone like Roy Oswalt (since he didn’t do great in 2012) or even Bartolo colon/Freddy Garcia type.

  3. Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

    I’d be fine with Lowe filling the long reliever/spot starter role but I’m not really convinced he’d be significantly better than loser of Nova/Phelps. My concern would be that role could stunt their development as a starter with sporadic innings and not having to use secondary pitches.

    I’d like to see Phelps or Nova get a chance to develop in the 5 slot since the Yankees are gonna need one or both in 2014 with Pettitte and Kuroda likely gone and also possibly Hughes.

    Developing a couple of young cost controlled starters would be a big boost to them over the next few years.

    • Jacob says:

      I see a better chance that if phelps loses he is the longman than if nova were to lose, I just don’t see nova as a guy that would be good in the pen, he is much more usefull in the rotation

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Why would Nova be worse from the pen than in the rotation?

        • Jacob says:

          Just an opinion, I feel like he would be less effective there, like he would not take to the role or something to that effect. I could be absolutely wrong though

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Personally, I’d look at his stuff, make-up, and the difference between starting and relieving instead of just intuiting it. I don’t see much evidence that he wouldn’t take to the role, and you’re not providing any yet either. You might be absolutely right, but your gut feeling isn’t much of an argument.

            • Jacob says:

              Oh i’m not trying to argue, it is just a gut feeling like you said and nothing else. He just feels like more of a starter to me and this value is in starting, but like I said just my opinion

              • Ted Nelson says:

                I agree that Nova is more valuable as a starter (because I think he’s a pretty solid SP), but I think that most good SPs could also do well in the BP. There are definitely Ps who have skills that make them better suited to relief (two really strong Ps, for example, or great stuff but a lack of stamina/durability) who might be better RPs than some good SPs would be, but a lot of RP are also just failed SPs. There also might be some starters who would be worse in the BP, but I think that gets overstated a lot (some people thought Garcia couldn’t relieve because of warm-up time). Generally, I’d say it’s easier to be a RP going out there for one or two innings at a time than to be a SP trying to get through a line-up 3 times over 6 IP or so.

                • The Doctor (formerly known as G formerly known as Matt Smith formerly known as David Tennant formerly known as...etc) says:

                  The guy can run a fastball up to 97, if he goes all out, with a damn good slider. That’s the kinda repertoire that usually plays up well in the pen. Like Ted said, he’s undoubtedly more valuable as a starter, but he has pretty much perfect relief pitcher stuff.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          My un-scientific opinion would be that regular work would allow him to get his rhythm settled and be less Jeckyl/Hyde.

          As a pitching coach goes, though, I’m a hell of a social services administrator.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I know Yankees fans are hyper-sensitive about the perceived destruction of Joba, but there’s a long history of successful SPs starting out in the BP for a season or more. I don’t know what the optimal way to develop a P is, but I don’t think a year in the pen or an extra year in AAA necessarily puts development at risk. (But when that guy doesn’t meet his best case, of course correlation will be made by fans to equal causation and they will assume he would have turned out perfectly in another scenario… Or that their opinion on how he should have been handled was the right one.)

      • Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

        I know the Earl Weaver Orioloes liked to break In young starters through the bullpen and Minnesota did it with Santana too.

        I’m not sure which would be a better way to groom Phelps or Nova as a future starter, another year in AAA pitching 175 innings starting or pitching 60-70 innings as a major league reliever. I’d love to ask a couple of major league pitching coaches that question.

        • JAG says:

          Ne argument for AAA innings is that just pitching more innings makes them more valuable for 2014 and beyond when they’ll need to be reliable for more than half a season. Stretching out Phelps or Nova makes them an option to pitch the entire season in the rotation right out of the gate. Obviously they still need to be effective, but if they’re not then it doesn’t matter whether they were in the pen or the AAA rotation.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Guys in their mid-to-late 20s who have recently pitched 150+ inning seasons are not necessarily on innings limits. The evidence for innings limits is that connective tissue is still developing through the early 20s.

            Basically, I don’t think pitching out of the pen would make either unavailable to start in 2014 when he’s 27 years old. You get stretched out leading up to the season, not from the season before.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Would be interesting to get some sort of survey. I would guess opinion will vary a bit.

          The Rangers have recently been considered amazing at developing Ps, and they shuffle guys back and forth (Wilson, Feliz, Ogando) while the Rays don’t seem to much (though they also tend to keep guys down in the minors if they’re not ready to stop them from accruing service time).

          There are a lot of examples of guys who have started as reliever or swing-men and transitioned to the rotation with success. Just some notable examples off the top of my head: Nolan Ryan, Curt Schilling, Pedro, David Wells, Kenny Rogers, CJ Wilson, Morrow, Wainwright, Billingsly, Marquis, Bob Gibson, Jack Morris, Fergie Jenkins…

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      That’s the issue. From his statements (and, yes, players and agents say a lot of funny things for money), it seems like he’d expect to be in that mix when no, he absolutely shouldn’t. To me, unless the Mike-forementioned brain-beating in ST of one of them happens, Lowe would be in competition with the Adam Warrens of this world. Not happening.

      Marcum, though? I’d put him in the mix with Phelps and Nova for sure.

  4. Jacob says:

    I think I would rather see the Yanks send the loser of phelps/nova to triple-a so they can get their innings. If we are filling the longman from within I vote Warren, I think his future is in the pen more than anywhere else. But I would be all for signing lowe for the longman role

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I still think it’s a pretty serious question whether Warren can get MLB hitters out. You might lose some games in MLB just hoping that AAA starting is better for a guy’s development than MLB relieving.

      • Jacob says:

        That is also the question, but I think his stuff might be better coming out of the pen. Worth a shot if nothing else, but that is a good question because what we saw in june was not very uplifting.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        That was one incredibly straight fastball he was throwing. I know it’s one start, but that thing scared the bejesus out of me. He has to throw better than that.

    • jesse says:

      Agreed, except I’d prefer Lowe to Warren in terms of being the long-man.

  5. Ted Nelson says:

    I don’t see Marcum coming in unless his price just gets ridiculously low.

    I also don’t see them trading either Eobertson or Joba. One is their 2nd best RP and one probably has low trade value coming off two injuries. Logan I could more see, though I still don’t really expect it.

  6. Reuben Sierra's Chains says:

    GOD NO!!!!

    • Milt Toast says:

      Wrong thread?

      • Reuben Sierra's Chains says:

        Nope right one.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        To some people the long-man and AAA starters seem to be the most important guys in the org… people are still freaking out that the Yankees carried Mitre, and he was actually a success.

        • The Doctor (formerly known as G formerly known as Matt Smith formerly known as David Tennant formerly known as...etc) says:


          Loud noises!

        • Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

          Mitre may not have been as bad as he’s made out to be around these parts but I wouldn’t call pitching to a 5.30 and 4.69 FIP with 0.2 WAR over 100+ innings and 2 years a “success”.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            He made ~$1 mill per as a 25th man, and made some spot starts above replacement level in 2009, gave them a nice 2010, plus returned a somewhat useful piece in Dickerson. I’d call that a successful return. He was a scrap heap pick-up who wasn’t paid much in relative terms.

            • Tom says:

              He had an ERA of 7.16 as a starter in 2009; doesn’t seem like that is “above replacement level”

              • Ted Nelson says:

                It was a small sample and he was at 4 xFIP, which is a better predictor of future ERA than ERA itself or FIP. Which is why fangraphs has him as above replacement.

                I’m not trying to say that Mitre was good. I’m saying that 1. he was the 25th or so man on the roster yet a lot of fans freak out that he was on the roster and use that fact to condemn Girardi and Cashman, and 2. he wasn’t that much of an investment, yet he had a good season for them and brought them back something of use in return.

                • Tom says:

                  Fangraphs has him at replacement level. To consider 0.1WAR/year as anything other than replacement level is to have no actual understanding of the limitations of WAR.

                  Also you cannot use a PREDICTIVE statistic like xFIP to measure PAST performance. All his xFIP in 2009 is telling you is what his performance MIGHT be in the future with similar peripherals – you are making the all too common mistake of using it as a measure of actual and past performance. There’s a reason why Fangrpahs doesn’t use xFIP in fWAR. I assume you of course know this but are conveniently pulling that # to describe past performance (incorrectly) because it helps make your “above replacement” not look so foolish.

                  I’m not trying to predict 2009, it already occurred. If you were going to use an advance stat you would use FIP, which was over 5, and also terrible (and certainly not “above replacement”). Of course you conveniently left that out.

                  • Ted Nelson says:

                    No, xFIP does describe past performance. You are wrong, which is not surprising at all. You only comment on here to trip me up, and end up just making yourself look dumb by providing misinformation.

                    And fangraphs had him at 0.3 fWAR in about 50 IP. That is not replacement level. In a full season that would be a 1.2 back-end starter.

                    • Tom says:

                      I frankly don’t care how his ERA should have looked based on how many HR’s he THEORETICALLY should have given up in 2009 (xFIP) or how sustainable or unsustainable his performance, I care about how many he ACTUALLY DID give up (ERA or FIP) and what his performance was. If you want to look at his theoretical 2009, great; just like you can pretend what he would have done if he had thrown 200+ innings (and apparently started 36 games?). I prefer to stick with what actually happened; if I was looking into what Mitre might do next year, then something like xFIP would be meaningful.

                      The runs he gave up, are the runs he gave up… xFIP does not represent that; you even said it in your original comment – it is used to predict FUTURE performance. At the very least you should be using FIP…. a clue to that would be if you knew what the “x” in xFIP stood for.

                      Chad Qualls posted 0.1 WAR in ~7 innings last year. While most would consider that replacement level, I now realize I can multiply that by 9 (if he had a full season of relief innings) and consider him a roughly 0.9fWAR type reliever using your theoretical world logic. Maybe Cashman should look at bringing him back? It seems like he is an above replacement level reliever, 0.9fWAR is pretty good for a reliever.

                      Chris Dickerson posted 0.3 fWAR in 17 PA’s last year. In a full season that would be ~9 WAR. So he basically was a 9fWAR player who just didn’t get the right # of AB’s, just like Mitre was actually like a 1.2 fWAR player if only he had gotten 200+ innings and 36 starts (and mixed in 12 relief appearances in between).

                      Do you see the problem yet? On one hand you say the sample is too small so we should be using modeled results… but then you take a WAR # based on FIP (not xFIP) and multiply it by 4? (which by the way you couldn’t even do that right as you should have projected it based on games started) All you are doing is multiplying the error in that # by 4 as well, which renders your 1.2fWAR as meaningless as the 0.3fWAR # is.

            • Andy Pettitte's Fibula says:

              Actually Mitre was worth -1.0 bWAR in 2009 so he was less than replacement level. Had the Yankees use Joe Replacement pitcher for league minimum of $160K, they would have saved $800K and won an additional game to boot.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Actually, he was at 0.3 fWAR.

                Rookies make $400,000+, granted they only make that rate when they’re in the bigs.

                • Robinson Tilapia says:

                  Let’s please not get into a dragged out argument over Sergio Mitre, for God’s sake.

                  I think he was a fairly inconsequential pitcher who provided some good results for a longer period than, say, Dan Giese did. The hate/jokes seems to come from the perception that he got one too many tours of duty on Girardi-led teams. Is it deserved? Probably not, but he’s a good punchline and this forum will always undervalue the fringe guy. The fringe guy wins you ball games every season, regardless of his WAR or whatever. You need him.

                  • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

                    Dude, I agree it’s definitely not worth arguing over Mitre but to spin Mitre’s Yankee career as a “success” or providing “good results” is a total fallacy.

                    Actually Dan Giese was worth 0.5 bWAR and 0.5 fWAR in his 43.1 innings with the Yankees compared to Mitre’s -0.7 bWAR and 0.2 fWAR in his 110 innings with the Yankees. Sample sizes are obviously small and the differences in WAR likely not significant.

                    While Mitre may not be the embodiment of putrescence that he’s made out to be, I think most would agree he was a pretty shitty last man on the roster type pitcher who Girardi probably used more than he should have, not a guy who was plucked off the scrap heap and contributed anything worthwhile like you guys are making him out to be.

                    • Robinson Tilapia says:

                      I honestly thought he ate up some innings in unspectacular-but-unoffensive fashion that first season, then was pretty useless the rest.

                      The rap comes from people feeling like Girardi gave him one too many shots because he may have seen something in him pre-TJ in Florida. Perhaps it’s deserved, perhaps it’s not. I honestly thought Tanyon Sturtze stuck around much longer past his sell-by date and actually pitched more subpar innings that mattered. It’s also the LaTroy Hawkinses and Juan Acevedos of this world that piss me off more in the Yankee universe as well.

                      I avoid WAR and sabremetric talk like the plague sometimes, but I do wonder if it’s really the right stat to pull out here. I feel like it’s a Mitre that pitches that one inning, Jayson Nix that gets that one hit, and DeWayne Wise that makes that one catch. It feels more cumulative to me what guys like these do for a team over the course of a season than what an individual stat will show.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      I love how you use bWAR here since it proves your point. I’ll bet that if his fWAR was negative, you’d be using that instead.

                      For an injury replacement, last man on the roster he was not a bad pick up at all. Then his second year was solid (0.6 bWAR… your new favorite convenient stat). Then he netted them Chris Dickerson, who isn’t anything special but is an asset.

                      If you don’t think that was a solid return from a scrap heap roster filler, your expectations are too high.

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