There was a time when Derek Lowe was a very useful and very productive pitcher. He was an extreme ground balling hurler, one who was durable -- he's never been on the disabled list once in a 16-year career -- and versatile, and with the exception of a single season, consistently very good. With the Red Sox alone, Lowe put up a 127 ERA+ over eight years and 1,037 innings, making him one of the more underrated pitchers in the game for nearly a decade. He then went and repeated the feat with the Dodgers after securing his free agency, twirling another 850 innings and a 120 ERA+.
Lowe left Los Angeles after 2008, though, and he's been far less effective since.There have been moments -- flashes, if you will -- of the old Lowe during his time in Atlanta. But they were more fleeting than factual, and while he maintained the durability and the innings, the production just wasn't the same. This ended up getting him sent to Cleveland on the last year of his contract, with the Braves picking up the tab. But it turned out that Lowe, now 39 years old, was in line for the worst season of his career.
His strikeout rate dropped to an all-time low, with the righty punching out just 3.1 per nine. To put that in perspective, Jason Marquis is striking out more than twice as many batters per nine as Derek Lowe in 2012. Jason Marquis was released by the Twins shortly after the Red Sox destroyed him months ago, but found success once more in the National League, where he had been very Jason Marquis-like in his pre-Twins years. Lowe might be in the same situation, where the less competitive National League -- a league in which, on top of the talent disparity with the AL, pitchers hit -- should be his home until he retires.
The Red Sox, as you know, are not in the National League. So, as much as it would be lovely to see one of The 25 return to town, remember that there's just one member of that group that's still worth owning in the majors, and Boston already has him playing the position that Derek Lowe should only see in lineups during interleague. Hell, Boston already has a Derek Lowe, and his name is Aaron Cook. Unless Josh Beckett is injured, there's little reason for him to be in the rotation any longer, either.
Lowe would require a 40-man roster spot, and would likely need a 25-man spot too in order to sign. Just because he'd be inexpensive while making the more emotional side of fandom tingle doesn't mean it's a good idea to acquire him. It would be a nice thought, were it even 2011 rather than 2012, but all his return to the AL has done is remind us that the NL and AL play in two very different contexts. Thanks for the memories, Derek Lowe, but let's not create any more of them.