Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Pay Lowell to Play for Rangers?

Mike Lowell for Max Ramirez is a proposal / deal that leaves everyone but the Red Sox puzzled. Why would the Red Sox pay up to three-quarters of Lowell's 2010 salary, amounting to $8 or $9 million, to play for Texas?

Yes, Lowell has been hobbled by his surgically repaired hip, but he has told both reporters and the Red Sox that he feels better than at any time since the injury that led to the surgery.

Lowell's doctors told him it would take at least a year to fully recover, which is about now. His hip has become arthritic, which may permanently affect his range and mobility, but Lowell is still a dangerous hitter and could well serve the Red Sox in a variety of capacities: third base, first base, and right handed DH.

The veteran third baseman is a high character guy, widely respected throughout baseball. Red Sox management loves him, despite shopping him (hey, this is a business after all), the fans love him, and his teammates love and respect him.

Lowell is said to be a very positive and professional influence inside the Red Sox clubhouse; you never any scandals or dirty laundry attached to his name.

Most importantly Lowell can still hit. Though he only played in 113 games in 2008, he still notched 17 homers and 73 RBI, which was more than JD Drew.

And last season, despite playing in just 119 games, Lowell once again posted 17 homers and 75 RBI (the latter of which was again better than JD Drew). In fact, Lowell's 75 RBI were fifth highest on the team.

Why wouldn't the Red Sox keep a guy with that kind of offense to platoon at first, third, and DH? Wouldn't he make an ideal pinch hitter? Last season, Lowell became the first Red Sox player to hit two home runs off the bench in the same game since Joe Foy in 1967.

It's understandable that the Red Sox have concerns about Lowell's potential, or continuing, defensive limitations in 2010. But does paying most of his salary to play for another team make any sense? If the deal is consummated, the Red Sox will have payed Lowell about $34 million for just two years of service. That's not a very good return on their investment.

The only way a trade for Max Ramirez makes any sense is if he is simply a trade chip that the Sox will spin off as part of a larger swap.

The Mariners are said to be discussing a deal for the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez, renewing a pursuit that began prior to last season's trade deadline. The fact that the Padres are even listening means that they are at least considering a trade of their franchise player and local hero.

A source told Fox Spots Thursday that the slugging first baseman "could be had in the right deal."

The Padres' new GM Jed Hoyer obviously has close ties to Theo Epstein, and he knows the Red Sox system better than any other team's. Making a deal with the Red Sox for his star first baseman makes more sense than dealing with any other club.

Perhaps the Red Sox are trying to give the Padres an additional trade chip, another young (25), slugging first baseman/catcher. Ramirez is leading the Venezuelan Winter League with 12 homers.

With two catchers already on the Red Sox roster at a combined total of over $10 million next year, there doesn't seem to be a place for the defensively challenged Ramirez in that role. And since the Red Sox will offer a contract to Casey Kotchman to once again be their backup first baseman, that also seems to preclude Ramirez.

So unless the Red Sox are planning to spin off Ramirez in some larger deal, exchanging a veteran hitter and clubhouse leader like Lowell for a player who likely won't impact the big league roster this season is unfathomable. Lowell is a known quantity, while Ramirez is anything but.

At 25, Ramirez still hasn't proven that he can perform at the Major League level. In 57 plate appearances during the 2008 season, Ramirez has a .217 batting average and a .715 OPS, with two homers and nine RBIs.

According to Baseball America, he was the 84th-best prospect in baseball and the 10th-best in the Rangers organization entering last season.

However, injuries to both wrists limited him to just 76 games in 2009, affecting his hitting (.234 avg.) and sapping his power (5 HR).

Despite four All Star selections, two World Series Championships and a World Series MVP, apparently that's all Mike Lowell is worth these days.

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