We all love Mike Lowell. Really.
But if we’re talking $60 million over four years for the Red Sox to retain their third baseman, well, thanks for the memories.
Three years, $36 million? Let's talk.
Still, as much as it seems that the Red Sox may indeed have an interest in re-signing Lowell, it would indeed be an upset in that it’s the kind of deal the team has opted not to give its other aging superstars (Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez) in the past. Lowell has hit .300 just once in his career (this season), and at the age of 33, doesn’t project to improve offensively. It likely won’t get any better than it did in 2007, and the Red Sox’ long-term forecasts are sure to show that. Unless you’re a franchise catcher, guys who are going to be 34 when the next season starts aren’t likely to get a $60 million deal from this regime.
On the other hand, what’s $60 million when your next-best free agent option is going to be seeking somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 years and $300 million?
If you had to rank them, 1-2-3, in terms as to which available slugger you’d most want the Red Sox to lock down into a long-term deal, who’d be at the top of the list?
For most fans, that’s easy. 1. Mike Lowell. 2. Nobody else.
Red Sox ownership could very well still have their desires set on Rodriguez, completing the circle that began four winters ago. The baseball operations people might discover that the Marlins are dangling Cabrera and start drooling in a Pavlovian hardball fantasy.
Any A-Rod to Boston movement would likely result in frustration from the masses, who love to hate the former Yankee and likely MVP of the league. Still, from a business standpoint, investing in Rodriguez probably makes sense, I guess, even at the dollars we’re discussing. But with any 10-year albatross, he’d be 42 by the time he’s off the books, not exactly the kind of future you need to be weighed down to. The Red Sox could talk him down to $150 million or so over five years, and as Ken Rosenthal suggests, leave the door open in time for him to opt out prior to breaking the all-time home run record.
Then there is the case of one Miguel Cabrera, the perennial Marlins All-Star - whose increasing weight might make him a better left fielder than third baseman - who will be on the trading block this winter and has the potential for what would amount to an unprecedented deal.
Writes the Palm Beach Post’s Juan C. Rodriguez, “Perhaps the most parallel situation occurred in 2002, when the Montreal Expos traded 25-year-old Pedro Martinez fresh off a Cy Young award to the Red Sox for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. In terms of prominent hitters, plenty have been traded in their primes, but none at this age. Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Carlos Beltran, Ruben Sierra, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Beltran were all traded at 27 or older. Fred McGriff was 26 when he went from the Blue Jays to the Padres. Aramis Ramirez was 25 when the Pirates moved him to the Cubs.”
Cabrera took over the third base duties in Florida full-time the summer after Lowell was dealt to Boston in the Josh Beckett deal, but is awful defensively, committing 23 errors at the position in 2007. But he is one of the game’s premier sluggers in a mold rarely found. It’s not often you can say he’s the next “Manny Ramirez,” but that’s probably what Cabrera’s talent ceiling amounts to.
With that in mind, does anyone wonder if this really isn’t about the winter that the Red Sox finally sign A-Rod, but whether it’s the winter in which they finally deal Ramirez?
As far as we know, Manny hasn’t asked for a trade yet this offseason, but he’s coming off a monstrous October, and his Steve Carrell fist-bumping outing on Jay Leno the other night probably helped the overall image of a player who has had perceived attitude concerns. He’s 35 and missed time late in the season with oblique issues, marking the first time in a decade he’s had fewer than 100 runs batted in. Ramirez has just one year remaining on his contract, with two team options, but Cabrera, 11 years younger, could be seen as a logical replacement in left.
At the cost of Clay Buchholz plus another premier prospect? Justin Masterson? Jed Lowrie? Jon Lester? Jacoby…Ellsbury? What if the Sox deal Ramirez for prospects (James Loney) that they plan to flip in any Cabrera deal?
Cabrera is two years away from free agency, so any club that traded for the slugger might or might not get into extension talks. The Red Sox may indeed rather wait and see what plays out there rather than surrendering more young talent to the Marlins system. If Boston opts to pick up one of Ramirez’s option years, then goes after Cabrera two years from now on the free agent market (five years, $125 million doesn’t sound unlikely), it will save itself the issue of having dealt away possible top of the rotation guys. Trading for him now keeps him away from the Yankees, who have already expressed interest.
But at 24, is he still too raw to have faith that he’ll become another Manny? And what’s more marketable, a 24-year-old budding superstar, or the best player in baseball making an assault on the home run record in your uniform?
Mike Lowell would make the fans happy, but of the three he probably makes the least sense for the long-term future of the club.