Julio Lugo, who was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness during his 2 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox, has been designated for assignment.
The designation, which was confirmed by his agent, Sam Levinson, this afternoon, means the team has 10 days to either trade or release the veteran shortstop, who signed a four-year, $36-million deal with the Red Sox as a free agent before the 2007 season.
“When you see a good looking girl, you get married and sometimes things don’t work out,” told the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley, who caught up to him at the airport in Toronto. “I gave it my best and unfortunately things didn’t work out. This is the best for both parties. I wanted it to work out but it didn’t.”
The Lugo deal will go down as one of the poorer personnel decisions of Theo Epstein’s tenure — something the general manager more or less confirmed late this afternoon while discussing the decision.
“This was one of the free agent signings that doesn’t work out. We were paying for past performance, not current performance,” Epstein said. “That’s the true definition of a mistake, and as the decision, that’s on me. We’ll just move on and be a better organization having gone through it, and we’ll make better decisions going forward.”
A source told the Globe’s Amalie Benjamin that a trade of Lugo is still possible and that the Sox have talked to several teams, but thus far there have been no takers for the 33-year-old, who is owed roughly $13.5 million through next season.
If he is not claimed, the Red Sox will be obligated to pay the remainder of his contract, and Benjamin reports that the Sox are prepared to eat a “significant” chuck of his salary, something Epstein indirectly confirmed.
“I think ownership has been consistent that we’ll do what we need to do to keep the best possible team on the field,” he said. “A sunk cost is a sunk cost. We’re sorry it didn’t work out better with Julio, obviously. But keeping him on the team wasn’t going to change that. Sometimes the best organizations admit their mistakes and they move on. And that’s what we’re doing here.”
Lugo was absent from the team’s mandatory workout at Rogers Centre last night, though manager Terry Francona said it was because of a communications mix-up.
The Red Sox needed to open up two roster spots today with third baseman Mike Lowell expected to return to the lineup tonight after a stint on the DL with a hip injury and righthander Clay Buchholz being recalled from Pawtucket to make tonight’s start.
First baseman Aaron Bates is expected to be optioned back to Pawtucket to clear one opening. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has been out since May after wrist surgery, is expected to return Saturday, with Buchholz heading back to the PawSox.
The writing has appeared to be on the wall regarding the end of Lugo’s disappointing time with the Sox for weeks. Nick Green, a journeyman who joined the club as a non-roster invitee to spring training, played well while Lugo was sidelined beginning in March after knee surgery.
Upon returning in late April, Lugo produced adequately at the plate — he batted .284 in 37 games — but struggled mightily defensively (seven errors in 97 chances) and seemed hesitant, particularly in turning the double play.
The strong-armed and steadier Green secured the brunt of the playing time at shortstop at Lugo’s expense, and with Lowrie’s impending return, there was no spot remaining for Lugo. The club is content to go with Lowrie and Green at the position for the foreseeable future.
“I think it’s just a matter of putting our best team on the field,” Epstein said. “That’s really the motivation behind [the Lugo move]. Jed Lowrie, ready to be recalled tomorrow. Nick Green playing well and out of options. We felt like those two would be our best combination for the shortstop position at this point.”
Signed to a lucrative four-year deal in December 2006 after splitting the previous season between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers, he struggled from the get-go with the Sox, batting .189 through July 7 in his first season in Boston.
Dropped from the leadoff spot to the bottom of the order, he did rebound enough to finish at .237 with 8 home runs and 73 RBIs as the Red Sox won their second championship in four seasons.
But the problems continued last season. He batted .268 with one homer and 22 RBIs, but made 16 errors before his season ended after 82 games because of a torn quadriceps muscle.
In 10 seasons with Houston, Tampa Bay, the Dodgers, and Red Sox, Lugo is a lifetime .271 hitter.
Chad Finn and Adam Kilgore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.