The Red Sox today officially closed the book on the Julio Lugo era, trading the shortstop who never quite fit in Boston to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Chris Duncan and a player to be named later (or cash considerations). Duncan will be optioned to Triple A Pawtucket.
The trade was the second of the day for the Red Sox, who sent Portland shortstop Argenis Diaz and Greenville righthander Hunter Strickland to the Pirates in return for lefthanded-hitting first baseman Adam LaRoche.
Lugo’s departure from Boston was sealed on July 17 when the Red Sox designated the struggling shortstop for assignment, giving the team 10 days to release or trade him. The Sox found a willing trading partner in the Cardinals, who were willing to take a chance on the player who hit .251 with 10 homers and 103 RBIs in 266 total games for the Red Sox. Lugo signed a four-year, $36-million deal with the Sox as a free agent before the 2007 season.
Duncan, 28, batted .227 (59-for-260) with five home runs and 32 RBIs in 87 games for the Cardinals this season, going 4-for-12 (.333) as a pinch hitter. He ranked second on the club and tied for ninth among lefthanded National Leaguers with 41 walks. Duncan made 68 appearances (64 starts) in left field and six (three starts) at first base.
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 while discussing the decision last week.
“This was one of the free agent signings that doesn’t work out. We were paying for past performance, not current performance,” said Epstein. “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.”
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.