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2016 Free agent profile: Mark Lowe

The journeyman enjoyed a career renaissance in 2015.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into 2015, Mark Lowe appeared to be a washed-up middle reliever. It had been four-and-a-half years since he was traded to the Rangers along with Cliff Lee, and three years since he gave up a walk-off home run to David Freese in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

In 2013 and 2014, Lowe signed minor league contracts with the Angels and Indians, respectively, and pitched a combined 18.2 major league innings with a 7.23 ERA and 6.51 FIP. Still, the Mariners—the organization that first drafted him in 2004—offered him a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training for 2015.

Lowe then had the finest season of his career, with a 1.96 ERA with a 2.57 FIP in 55 innings. He posted a full-season career-high strikeout rate and a career-low walk rate, and he returned to the ground ball-heavy ways that brought him success in 2011. The Blue Jays bought into Lowe and sent three prospects to the Mariners for him at the trade deadline, and while he wasn't quite as good down the stretch, he still posted a 3.79 ERA for them in the regular season while pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball.

Lowe threw two pitches in 2015: a four-seam fastball and a slider. He entirely ditched his changeup and started throwing his excellent slider nearly half of the time.

lowe-pitch-mix

Despite the increased use, the slider—which he tweaked a bit this season—was effective, and 48.3 percent of batted balls against it were hit on the ground. That helped Lowe return to a ground ball-to-fly ball ratio greater than one. Lowe's velocity did slip a bit down the stretch, but the movement on his pitches was remarkably consistent, helping to alleviate some concerns about the stress of throwing so many sliders over the course of the season.

Given his status before 2015, the 32-year-old Lowe's free agent market will likely be depressed compared to other middle relievers. For the Mets, this could lead to a great chance to sign a cost-effective bullpen piece. A contract in the two-year, $8 million dollar range—the crowd-sourced projection at Fangraphs—is probably fair for both sides and seems like a worthwhile risk for the Mets to take.