Coming off a World Series win and a Series MVP in 2007, Mike Lowell took a hometown discount the stay in Boston.
He may be regretting that decision now.
FOXSports.com is reporting that the Rangers and Red Sox have reached a preliminary agreement on a trade that will send Lowell to Texas for catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez.
Who would have guessed that, after all the previous talk of the Red Sox obtaining a Rangers' catcher, Ramirez would be the one the Sox ended up with?
Ramirez's Major League career amounts to just 17 games in 2008, in which he hit .217 with a .345 OBP. However, Ramirez has a .299 average and .398 on-base percentage in the minors. His defensive skills still need development.
Ramirez doesn't seem to figure into the Red Sox plans in 2010, but his versatility could be helpful down the line.
However, the most stunning aspect of the deal is that the Red Sox will be assuming $9 million of the $12 million owed to Lowell in 2010, the final year of his current contract.
That begs an obvious question: What's in it for the Sox?
Boston is believed to have “significant” interest in free agent Adrian Beltre, according to multiple baseball sources. Beltre won back to back Gold Gloves in 2007 and 2008, and is a premier defensive third baseman.
The Sox have concerns that Lowell’s lack of mobility has become a permanent liability despite having hip surgery. Lowell played in only 119 games this year, and just 113 last year. If his range is permanently lost, he will indeed be a defensive liability.
It seems the Red Sox are trying to get younger and are looking ahead, beyond next year. Beltre will be 31 at the start of next season, while Lowell will be 36. Perhaps the Sox have analyzed the potential free agent market for third basemen next winter and don't like what they see.
Beltre had an off year in '09, batting .265 with eight home runs and 44 RBI in 111 games. Those are not the kind of numbers that inspire big, long term contracts.
But prior to last season, Beltre had hit 25 homers for three consecutive years. However, he's never come close to approaching the stunning season he had in 2004, his last year with the Dodgers
. That year, Beltre hit .334/.388/..629, with 200 hits, 48 homers, and 121 RBI, all career highs.
The word is Beltre is seeking a deal in the five-year, $65 million range. The Sox would be ill-advised to commit that much money to a 12-year veteran with a career on-base percentage of .325 and a career OPS of .779. The former number is below average and the latter just slightly above.
The Sox have talked to Scott Boras during the GM meetings this week, presumably about Beltre and Matt Holliday. Boras somehow persuaded the Red Sox to overpay for JD Drew three years ago, and perhaps he can influence them to overpay once again. That would be a shame.
The Sox would have some versatility at first base should they re-sign Casey Kotchman, which seems like a no brainer. Kotchman is young (27 to start next season), talented, and cheap ($2.885 million last season).
The Sox could platoon Kotchman at first, along with Victor Martinez, allowing Kevin Youkilis to move back to third base again on a full time basis.
Despite his limited range and mobility, Lowell still possesses a potent bat, notching 17 homers and 75 RBI in just 119 games last season. That offense will need to be replaced.
At his best, Beltre is Lowell's offensive equal. But that wasn't the case this past year. Paying Lowell to play for the Rangers would be a huge mistake if the Red Sox also have to overpay Beltre on a long term deal.
That's not a smart allocation of resources, and it's not the way to improve a team that was swept from the ALDS this year.
On it's face, Lowell for Ramirez makes no sense at all.
Let's not forget, Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were supposed to be rising star catchers from the Rangers organization too. That hasn't exactly panned out as expected.