Monday, December 21, 2009

I Don’t Know is on Third

It looks like Mike Lowell will be a Red Sox for the coming season. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

The way rumors fly during the hot stove season; it’s best to not get caught up on stories. I’ve often said it doesn’t happen until someone’s holding up a jersey at a press conference. In this case, you always had the feeling it wasn’t a normal transaction. Usually, when “reports” of a deal come out, it’s a matter of hours before everyone has it all buttoned up. This time, right off the bat they were wondering if it would really go through. That’s not a good sign for any trade.

The proposed deal would have sent Mike Lowell and $9 million to Texas for catcher Max Ramirez. That would have left a gaping hole at third base. The rumor mill went crazy with possible replacements. Would it be Adrian Beltre? Would the Sox shift Kevin Youkilis to third and trade for Adrian Gonzalez? Prince Fielder? As the trade wore one, though, none of the second shoes were falling. The Sox backed out of the Beltre pursuit, claiming he was too expensive. The Gonzalez deal was sounding like a pipe dream, even if it was a perfectly logical one. The Sox actually claimed to be OK with Casey Kotchman at first and Youkilis at third. That led to the obvious question. Why, then, trade Lowell?

After all, you were paying for him anyway. Was he that much of a hole in the roster that it was worth not having him? Even if he gives you 50 games, isn’t that better than 50 games of Kotchman? How about a DH platoon with Ortiz? If you’re not going to fill his hole with a superior player, aren’t the Sox better off with his production? I’d certainly think so.

So, assuming that Lowell has surgery, and can make it back in time to play…what does this mean? How does Lowell feel? The Red Sox almost completed a deal involving Nomar once, but it too fell apart. Nomar, naturally, felt unwanted and angry after the team basically agreed to trade him away. In that case, the trade would have made room for a comparable, if not superior, player. At least the Nomar/Manny switch for ARod/Ordonez could be talked up. How do you spin the Lowell deal? How do you convince Lowell that you think he’s anything other than a washed up has been? Can Theo look him in the eye and say he’s glad he’s on the team? “Yeah, Mike, I know we bribed another team with $9 million dollars to take you off our hands, and only wanted a third string catcher in return. But, you understand, we had to make room for Casey Kotchman.” Really? I know Lowell’s a class act, and won’t make it a distraction for the team. But, can he stop it from being a distraction for him? He’s already been a “throw in.” Does that prepare him for being a “has been”?

The trade rejection also, probably, signals the end of any major moves by the Sox. With Lowell at third, there’s no space to put a major acquisition. Unless, I suppose, they go the platoon route.

I wonder if Jason Bay can play first.

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