Miguel Tejada: A Perfect Fit for the Red Sox?

E ASenior Analyst IMay 24, 2009

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 13:  Miguel Tejada #10 of the Houston Astros gets ready infield during the Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on April 13, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Red Sox have had almost no offensive woes outside of David Ortiz this season. After very slow starts from Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox hitters are meeting, or in the case of Jason Bay or Jason Varitek, exceeding, their expectations for this season.

However, aside from David Ortiz, there have been some offensive troubles. The more troubling part about these problems as that they aren't coming as surprises. These two problems in the lineup are J.D. Drew, and the shortstop circus.

J.D. Drew has been bad at the plate this year, and a little banged up. In breaking news, doctors say results from a recent study reveal indeed that it is beneficial for one's health to breathe on a regular basis.

I'm sorry, that was rude. However, Drew is a notoriously slow starter, and his delicate stature has earned him the nickname Nancy Drew in Boston. Only fitting.

His struggles, are for another article, however.

The real issue at hand is the shortstop position. Unfortunately, offense hasn't been the only problem for the trio of Red Sox shortstops this year. All three shortstops who have been trotted out by the Red Sox this year have been inept at offense and defense.

Despite Jed Lowrie still being a young kid with plenty of time to show that his bad start was a fluke, despite Julio Lugo being under contract for two more seasons, with David Ortiz struggling on a prolific level, I believe that it is time for Theo Epstein to pull the trigger and bring in a shortstop.

Such a transaction can easily be done, via trade of course.

First, a look at what the Red Sox have on hand at shortstop.

Julio Lugo

Lugo, currently in the third year of the questionable four-year contract handed to him by Theo Epstein, has been nothing short of terrible during his Red Sox tenure.

After hitting .238 in 2007 and missing a big chunk of the season last year with a knee injury, Lugo has not only made himself officially untradeable, but has shown that he deserves a contract more closer to the league minimum salary.

After sitting out for April this year, Lugo has now returned to play in 19 games. In those 19 games, Lugo has looked decent at the plate.

He looks to be truly regressing in the field, however, as his fielding percentage has decreased from .968 in 2007 to .945 in 2008 to .931 so far this year. In only 19 games, Lugo has made four errors, all of them costly.

Lugo is hitting .274/.338/.387, with one home run, four RBI, and a stolen base. In 62 at-bats, Lugo has six strikeouts and six walks.

Jed Lowrie

Currently on the DL, Lowrie isn't likely to return until late July with a wrist injury.

In his second stint with the Red Sox, the kid with a seemingly bright future wasn't able to put it together for the Red Sox this year. Despite being a career .287 hitter in the minor leagues, Lowrie has hit only .245 for the Red Sox between 2008 and 2009.

In his five games before hitting the disabled list this year, Lowrie played all of them at shortstop after seeing over 40 games played at shortstop and third base last season.

Lowrie has been praised as a good contact hitter, but the biggest asset he brings to the Red Sox is his defense, as well as his versatility.

Last year, while playing 49 games at shortstop, Lowrie turned 109 assists while making no errors at short, adding 59 assists and two errors in 45 games at third.

Despite continued great defense at short from Jed Lowrie, who has a 1.000 fielding percentage at shortstop for the Red Sox, when he does return he will probably be optioned to the minor leagues because of his abysmal start at to the season at the plate.

In 18 at-bats, Lowrie hit .056, with no home runs, no RBI, two walks, and eight strikeouts.

Because of the offensive struggles, he will likely only be starting for defensive purposes at shortstop if David Ortiz' bat comes back to life.

Nick Green

Acquired via free agency from the Yankees, Nick Green has filled in the hole at shortstop admirably for the Red Sox. Standing in at an even six feet, he looks like Dustin Pedroia, except playing shortstop.

Green has spent the majority of his career inside the American League, after being traded to Tampa Bay from Atlanta after his rookie 2004 season.

After a failed experiment as him being a full-time player in 2005 in which he hit .239, Green became a utility infielder for the Devil Rays and then the Yankees until joining the Red Sox.

Green is a good defensive player, but he is a natural second baseman and it shines through in his defensive numbers. He is a career .983 fielder at second base, compared to fielding percentages of .933 and .919 at shortstop and third base.

Out of 28 career errors, 10 of them have been committed at shortstop and five at third base.

While Green cannot be faulted for his effort, his defense is not going to cut if he wants to see the majority of playing time at shortstop this year. In 23 games, Green has made eight errors at short, with a Lugo-like .915 fielding percentage.

His offense has been a bright spot, however, as Green has hit .302, with a home run, 13 RBI, and a stolen base. He has shown bad plate patience, however, with 18 strikeouts to only four walks.

The Houston Astros are currently sitting in last place in the National League Central, seven games behind first-place Milwaukee with an 18-23 record.

However, if the Astros were to add a good starting pitcher for a low cost, they would have a decent shot at reaching the playoffs.

The only problem with this, though, is their budget. The Astros have hardly any payroll flexibility, which means they have to subject their fans to watching Brian Moehler and Felipe Paulino give terrible outings two out of every five games.

Since the Astros are badly in need of a starting pitcher, and the Red Sox are badly in need of some offensive help, with plenty of pitching to spare.

With Brad Penny (4-1, 6.07 ERA, 5 quality starts in 8 starts) a potential trade candidate with the looming arrival of John Smoltz, the Red Sox should definitely consider asking for a bat they can use to win this year.

Despite Houston's low payroll flexibility, a swap of Penny for Tejada would be perfect for both teams. For one, they would save money on Tejada this year, who is due to make $13 million. Penny, on the other hand, is making $5 million.

The Red Sox have announced that they have plenty of payroll flexibility, so taking on $8 million shouldn't be a problem for them. Furthermore, this wouldn't create a hole for either team.

John Smoltz would take Penny's rotation spot for the Red Sox, and Jeff Keppinger would take Tejada's spot at shortstop for the Astros.

The Astros would gain a good power pitcher in Penny, who was last healthy for a whole season in 2007, when he started for the National League All-Star team.

The addition of Penny would also allow the Astros to release Brian Moehler, who is 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA this year.

Filling in for Tejada would be Keppinger, who is hitting .279, with a home run and three RBI in 23 games. Keppinger's offensive skills emerged last year, and he has great defensive skills.

On the other hand, the Red Sox would get a five-time All-Star in Miguel Tejada. Tejada would be the perfect addition, as he is hitting .325, with four home runs and 24 RBI.

In addition, Tejada brings a .964 fielding percentage to the table, but it is likely to improve as the season gets along. Tejada is a career .971 fielder at shortstop, and had a .983 fielding percentage last year.

As if the match didn't seem perfect enough, it just keeps getting better. Neither team would have to worry about long-term ramifications of this trade, as both Penny and Tejada are free agents after the season.

In other words, this would give Houston room to add starting pitching this winter, and it would give Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo another shot at shortstop next season.

Both teams would get the piece that they need to win now, with the Red Sox getting their offensive help with some defensive talent, and the Astros getting their starting pitcher they wanted this winter, as well as increased payroll flexibility for the upcoming trade deadline.

They say nothing is perfect, but Houston and Boston look as perfect a match as possible when discussing a pitching-for-hitting swap.


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