The Lowell Trade

Boston is strapped for roster spots but has a packs of cash. Texas has a need for the latter in the worst way. Naturally both teams have come together and helped each other out by agreeing to swap Mike Lowell and Max Ramirez.

Boston has the hots for Adrian Beltre and in the pursuit of a happy clubhouse, ship Lowell away, so that ego flares and cliques never have the chance to form over whom should be the starting third baseman in the light of leadership and loyalty (see the case of Varitek 2009 in how that could be an issue). Lowell turns 36 soon, and even while battling injury issues, he’s been extremely solid with the bat. One still needs to regress his wOBA moving forward and adjust for the fact that he’s moving out of Doubles Central – not that Arlington is a no long fly zone either – but if Lowell is restricted to mostly DH work then lower that projected total even more. Assuming he plays, he should be at worst a league average hitter, and the Rangers are apparently getting him at a greatly reduced rate for one season.

To do so, they give up catcher Maximiliano Ramirez, who struggled this season with wrist injuries. He recently turned 25 and there are questions about his defense. Still, in the past the guy has hit, hit, and hit some more. He’s struggled in Triple-A because of this year, but his career Double-A line is .354/.450/.646 in 289 plate appearances. In high-A he had a .923 OPS through 480 plate appearances. Keep in mind he’s playing in some pretty hitter-friendly parks, but with George Kottaras elsewhere and the Green Monster still standing in left, Ramirez could prove to be a nifty player for Boston and after evidently finding himself out of the mix in Texas despite their catcher situation looking a bit murky.

There are some issues with Ramirez and making contact – like quite a few other Texas sluggers – but this comes down to Boston acquiring six-years versus Texas getting one. Neither is a sure thing, and if the reports of Boston paying 75% of the salary are true, then Texas is paying for roughly a win. Clearly Jon Daniels is focused on making a run in 2010, the question is whether Rich Harden and Lowell can stay healthy enough to contribute.

Given that this is really Lowell for Ramirez and Beltre, I think you have to give the edge to Boston. Although maybe the wrists are bigger cause for concern than we know.




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53 Responses to “The Lowell Trade”

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  1. DW0304 says:

    Feels like a “who has the better (medical) information trade”

    I like it for both sides at the moment, but if Max Ramirez is for real, Texas just got pwned. If he’s good enough to be Boston’s permanent catcher they don’t HAVE to spend on V-Mart in 2011. That’s still an if though.

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    • alskor says:

      There’s very little chance Max Ramirez is a full time catcher. He’s really a 1B/DH. Pretty much zero chance Sox see him as a full time catcher.

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      • EssBee says:

        Absolutely correct. Even with injuries to Saltalamacchia and the fact that Taylor Teagarden can’t hit his weight, MaxRam was still seen as a DH candidate and an option behind the plate. Love the guy and his approach, but he’s still weak in his catching skills. Don’t know what will happen with Lowell, but Max was not in the plans for Texas other than trade fodder. Sumbitch may turn out to be a stud, but Texas is making a run for 2010 and he didn’t fit it. As a Rangers’ fan, heres hoping that Lowell and Max just kick ass for their new, respective teams.

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  2. CircleChange11 says:

    Seems like Texas feels as though they “smell blood in the water” … in regards to the decline of the LAA.

    The big key for TEX seems to be is The natural returns to expected form of if the injuries are likely to be continual and performance affecting in a significant sense.

    I’m trying to figure out what is perceived talent of some of these prospects and what is real talent. I ask that because both StL and CHC have what are reputed to be “solid 3B prospects” in Brett Wallace and Josh Vitters. Yet, both teams had major 3B injuries in 09, and neither team brought up Wallace nor Vitters. CHC brought up Jake Fox, and StL eventually traded Wallace to OAK in the Holliday deal.

    The Rangers also have what “used to be” 2 big prospects at C in Teagarden and Salty. Both had down years in 09, but it makes me wonder if they know something we don;t about MRamirez or if they don;t see him as either being ready for MLB or being able to be better than Salthy or Teagarden?

    What affect does this trade have for Michael Young? Or will Lowell just Dh to replace Andruw Jones? Kinsler and Andruz are locks at their positions.

    TEX could be one of the more interesting AL teams of ’10, if they aren;t already after their 87 win season last year with an injured Hamilton.

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    • Joe R says:

      Rangers are a good/bad organization. Their pitching was lucky in 2009 (though not as lucky as some of us thought, just a -0.10 ERA-FIP split), and their offense, despite the praisings of Joe Morgan, was much much worse in 2009 (784 runs in 2009 vs. 901 runs in 2008). I think they’re the favorite in the AL West coming in, but if the A’s are willing to do some things, like maybe a 1 year contract to Jim Thome, and they could compete, too.

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      • lookatthosetwins says:

        Lucky? The team had the 6th best defense in the league according to UZR and had an ERA-FIP split of a whole -0.10? Even if that small of a number was meaningfully different than 0, it is more than explainable with defense. I’m not sure, but I think based on FIP and UZR, they probably were a little “unlucky”.

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  3. Rich in NJ says:

    Lowell hurt the Yankees over the years:

    .315 /.380/.516/.896

    I’m not unhappy to see him leave the RS.

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    • Joe R says:

      I’m happy with this trade. Red Sox have paid $9,000,000, all Ramirez needs to do is post like 2 WAR in 3 years of MLB service time to justify it. Unless the wrist is worse than I thought.

      Either way, Lowell’s still a decent player, but it doesn’t take UZR/FRAA/Dewan/etc. to tell someone that he was a statue out at third base this year. He just looks like a platoon/bench player right now.

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      • Daern says:

        Yeah, but Ramirez can’t field worth a damn. So we’ve acquired yet another hitter-sans-position. Hooray.

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      • Joe R says:

        A 24 year old all hit no bat vs. a 35 year old one. And did you check his AA numbers pre-injury? He was the equivalent of a mid-800′s OPS guy at Fenway.

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      • Daern says:

        We don’t know how he’s going to bounce back, we don’t know if he can hit in the majors, and we know he can’t field. Paying 9,000,000 dollars for that was not the best we could have done, I’m sure.

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      • JoeR43 says:

        He hit at ages 19-23 in the minors, then was hurt at age 24 and didn’t. If we kept Lowell, we pay about $12,000,000 for about 1/2 that in FA talent value. So we incur an extra $3,000,000 risk for a potential future 1B/DH for the club, or a cog in a future trade. Unless you think ’07 Lowell is about to come back, this is a good trade for the Red Sox.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    I guess grammar and sentence structure are overrated these days. I had to read the second paragraph 3 times to figure out what you were trying to convey. Editing is an underated skill.

    The Rangers will be unlikely to bench Michael Young more than once in a while for rest so Lowell will make a very good DH for them and maybe occasionally fill in at 3B/1B. It seems like a fairly good trade for both sides as they both filled immediate needs. What is it about Mike Lowell? This is the second win-win trade he’s been a part of if you look back at the Beckett/Hanley deal as well.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      If you are referring to my comments, there are two typos that make it confusing.

      Essentially, I was stating that the KEY to TEX’s success may likely be whether Josh Hamilton can return to health and be a monster in the lineup, or if his injuries are going to be something that are going to continue to appear and really hamper his production.

      In my 2nd paragraph, “is” should have been “if” and “of” should have been “or”. Fast typing combined with no proofreading. Bad me.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        Nah, he’s definitely referring to Anderson’s post. Couple of word and sentence errors have bothered Anonymous, but I’m way beyond that. I’m still trying to understand Anderson’s points about “the case of Veritek in 2009″ and Lowell being “solid with the bat”, after his injury, of course. Crazy stuff

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      • Joe R says:

        Well he was an above average hitter in 2009, it just came w/ a whole lot of defensive badness and a suddenly poor walk rate.

        I think a lot of people confuse Varitek’s use in the last 2 months as overloyalty. Why run down Martinez down the stretch when you already have firm control on the AL Wild Card. The West is going to be a little down in 2010 and it looks like the Sox will be in good shape again.

        And Tek? Well, despite all the bitching, he was still a 1.3 WAR guy. That’s a decent bench player. If you insist on using Total Zone found on b-r, he does drop to 0.7 WAR, so while that is pretty meh, you can do worse for a spell.

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      • William says:

        “Well he was an above average hitter in 2009, it just came w/ a whole lot of defensive badness and a suddenly poor walk rate.”

        Not exactly sudden w/ his BB%, though I didn’t see much signaling a downturn: 4 of 5 best rates came in first five full seasons (00 – 04), with an average of 9.5% (good for better than league median) versus 8.2% for 05-08 (close to the league’s bottom third); 2000 and 2002 – 04 had scores of 9.6 – 10.2; 2005 – 08′s HIGHEST score was 8.4%

        His 2009 wOBA actually falls in the bottom half of the 154 qualifying batters, despite having the second best babip of his career (his wOBA was only 6th best of 10 year career, despite that aid).

        In fact, he’s an interesting case of not-so-obvious decline. But if you compare his 4 years before and after signing in Boston (where his scores should be better, park wise), some curious things show. He has 21% more o-swings in the latter years than the former, and what is more, he has an 18% higher o-contact % … combined, that’s a lot of hitting less-than-ideal offerings. Interesting to note: check out that, for 8 years in a row now, that o-contact % has grown, and same goes during the last bunch of years for the 0-swing … such trends are destined to reduce taking balls and, therefore, walks … but maybe suggests more..

        Maybe growing tendency to poach outside of the plate had something to do with him not being able to catch the fastball as well as he had in years past, leading him to start chasing some bad breaking stuff: his wFB/C (how good he was at hitting the fastball) went .73, .55, .54, and .06 in 06-09. .76 is about average, and .06 is worse than about 75% of hitters.

        That he managed to actually hit those pitches, however, might not be a good thing. Having to hit offspeed stuff made his GB/FB rate soar (02-05 avg: .67, 06-09 avg.: .84, a full 25% jump over those two time periods), with the increase happening steadily throughout his career (from his first full season in 2000 (.63) that would rank him 5th lowest if we used the 2009 season’s GB/FB leaderboard, to his most recent season (.95), which shoots him all the way up to around 50th (or, from having a lower rate than over 95% of the league to having more than over 30% of them).

        So then, why do I think any of these leading indicators actually point to the steady-seeming wOBAs of both his last four years in Seattle and the four in Boston as misleading? After all, the first group avg. .345, and the second .353 … an increase, of all things, as his career continues to progress (though this doesn’t include park effect, which definitely alters things: 2007′s Batting Value for calculating WAR — a season I’ll talk about in a moment in which he compiled his career-high wOBA — is actually worse than two other years … because they were played in the Marlins’ stadium, instead of cozy Fenway).

        Well, look first at his career BABIPs, 8 of 10 of them ranging just from .272 – .304 … not spread very broadly at all … EXCEPT 2005 and 2007: .253 and .342, respectively. Those two single years add 60 points to an only 30 spread for eight other years.

        Guess what? The .253 year led to by far his worst offensive season, with his .291 wOBA WAY WAY below his second worst … .337!

        And, in 2007, his .342 babip led to, you guessed it, his best wOBA: .377 (which, admitedly, is close to two other years … but their own babips sure aren’t: a full 42 and 70 points lower!)

        What WASN’T different were all those indicators noted earlier — the ongoing trends towards fewer walks, more groundballs, more swings and contact outside the strikezone, less ability to hit the fastball (a bit of a problem in the MLB, no?), etc. — didn’t alter course. So, taking that consistency together with the two anomalous seasons with the extreme BABIPs, these were clearly results born out of luck, not improved ability. That the best year occurs in his last four years, while the worst is in the 4 before that, skews, at first, that all of those indicators are, in fact, accompanied by a slumping offensive career. You just don’t make a living hitting out of the strike zone, losing a knack for the fastball, etc., which occured whether it was during the logical majority of years or the two flukey years (both the great and the horrid one).

        So, take out 2005 and 2007, and what do you get for ’02 – ’04 vs. ’06, ’08, and ’09? Three sub-career average wOBAs following three above-average wOBAs, leading to an average of .364 in ’02-’04 to .345 for the last three.

        To paint it clearly, this drops him down a full 20% of all hitters on the overall rankings. Or, to get back to WAR’s Batting Value, he falls from an average of 22.3 raa to 4.6! In other words, in just a few years he went from creating over 2 wins a year just with his bat to less than half of one (a 79% fall in effectiveness). Hell, if one insists on adding in ’05 and ’07, Batting Value “only” drops from 12.2 – 9.1 (or a still eye catching 31&) … despite the clearly massive element luck, and not ability, had on those two years.

        The truth of the matter is that Mike Lowell has been slipping, slowly but surely, for some time along very consistent, if not immediately noticeable, paths.

        Of course, I could be totally wrong … I’d never looked at a bunch of those stats closely with any player before now, and was just asking myself whether the similar movement in a handful of stats catching my eye had a story to tell us. I think so, but it is quite possible, too, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Thoughts?

        P.S. this is all clearly backward looking. I would still give cudos to the bosox for grabbing him up off that wretched season because I’m sure those savy Bostonites recognized a babip when they saw one…

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    • Bob says:

      Anon, while I agree it was an unusually sloppy article:

      “Editing is an underated skill.”

      cmon.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      You can always read ESPN instead. I am sure it has a pool of editors.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    On Lowell’s range at 3B…let’s see what 6 months of off time do for his hip. He was fairly good in the 1st half before he reaggravated the injury. He could actually still be fairly solid in the field…not that he’ll likely get that much time out there with Young entrenched there for Texas.

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  6. Joser says:

    The Rangers didn’t seem very happy with Davis at 1B last year, so it’s possible Lowell is insurance and/or mentor there, as well. But I suspect he’s mostly taking over the as both the Hank Blalock Memorial Statue and the Omar Vizquel Venerable Old Guy. Double threat!

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  7. Steve C says:

    I’d rather see the Sox go after Miguel Cabrera or Nick Johnson to play first and move Youkilis over to 3rd.

    Imagine this very Billy Beane friendly line up …

    Drew .392
    Youk .397
    Pedroia .375
    Cabrera .382 / Johnson .402

    Any combination of the above 4 would make a formidable top four to a batting order.

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    • Joe R says:

      Cabrera’s been covered on here, his contract is pretty much fair market value and the improvement of acquiring him would likely cost the Sox in other areas, so, pass.

      I’d rather Nick Johnson since he’d come on the cheap thanks to a lack of power and injury concerns. Plenty of risk discount.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Considering Davis was terrible offensively, that’s not a surprise. At $3 million, Lowell is a pretty good DH and reserve corner IF.

    Davis stat: 150 SO in 419 PA last year…it wasn’t pretty. Still, he was only 23 so there’s still hope he figures out some plate discipline. Though, considering he was also a pretty poor fielder (at 1B of all places), maybe he’s simply not that good.

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  9. NEPP says:

    90% chance that Beltre will be a BoSox by this time next week. I doubt Theo pulls off a big trade for a position player. As great as it would be for them to get a guy like Adrian Gonzalez or Miggy Cabrera for their lineup.

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    • Dirty Water says:

      It would cost him Lackey + either of those two, so I agree: signing an elite stud won’t happen. Still though, Beltre’s been such an easy prediction I can’t help feeling it won’t happen. But then again, Bay two years ago was just as easy, and Martinez last year was a breeze. Welcome to Boston, Mr. Beltre?

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  10. Nick says:

    Ramirez has the feeling of a trade chip to me once he gets to Boston.

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  11. Steve says:

    So Boston is now paying 15% of their payroll to the Rangers and the Cards?

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      An uncapped 15%.

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    • Joe R says:

      Lugo was bad, but what’s the difference between Lowell for Ramirez, or handing Lowell to someone and signing someone for a $9 million contract?

      Getting young guys for disposible parts is almost always a win.

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    • Judy says:

      Yes, the Red Sox actually seem to prefer wasting just their money on players who are underperforming their contracts to continuing to waste playing time and rosters spots on them as well. Crazy, isn’t it?

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      • Steve says:

        you’re right, they’ve outsmarted everyone again!!

        it’s a shame that they were forced by the league to give both of these players large contracts to begin with.

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      • Mick Lowe says:

        i wonder if the sox can write off the contract losses and/or if the losses are insured? seriously.

        and what would happen, had the sox wrote off the julio contract and then traded mike for julio? would this be like getting julio for free? not seriously.

        even if we got julio for free, that would still be an overpayment.

        oh yea, 2 things for theo, never make a trade with texas (see gagne) or buy a free agent that had previously been a dodger (see julio, jury is still out on jd)

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  12. neuter_your_dogma says:

    I meant an uncapped payroll.

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  13. Dave L says:

    I bet you Max Ramirez doesn’t see an at bat with the Sox this season at least not before September. He’ll play at Pawtucket, and that’s if we even keep him, I could definitely see us using him as a major league ready type prospect that we supposedly don’t have, in a trade

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  14. TixList.com says:

    I don’t see a problem with the Sox flexing their muscle when it comes to these payoff deals (Lugo, Lowell). They recognize a better option available either via trade or the FA market, and choose to upgrade instead of a dead roster spot. Think the Yankees would’ve like to payoff Giambi during his final year? Pavano? Vasquez? Brown? I’m surprised it’s taken this long for the big market teams to move in this direction. Fast forward five years, the likes of Burnett and Tex may be payoff candidates (and CC with another 1000 IP’s under his belt).

    By the way, the talk of Youk to 3b is ridiculous. He’s a below avg fielder at 3b and above avg at 1b. How does that type of move make any sense?

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    • Steve says:

      well, whether or not it makes any sense depends entirely on the quality of the 3Bman or 1Bman you are bringing in under each scenario, right?

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  15. Bill says:

    So much for that vaunted group of young Texas catchers. There’s still time for them of course, but man did they all hit the ground with a thud.

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    • Jim says:

      Although, to be fair to Ramirez, he hasn’t exactly gotten a chance at the MLB level to show anything, mostly due to said wrist injuries.

      Let’s let him have a full season at AAA(with whatever organization he’s with) to assess whether he’s still thudding.

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      • Jim says:

        That second paragraph would read better as:

        “Let’s let him have a full season at AAA(with whatever organization he’s with) to assess whether or not he’s a “thud” or a potential impact bat for the future.”

        That’s better. ;)

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  16. perkinscove says:

    I understand that baseball is a business, but man…. letting their World Series MVP go for very little, just so they can spend even more money on a great defender with a shaky bat (keep in mind that Mike Lowell is a top defender at 3B, too). I was under the impression that Lowell was a favorite in Boston. I know, I know, baseball really is a business, but it reminds me of two things: 1) The Sox recently almost let their Captain and team leader, Jason Varitek, walk, and 2) Johnny Damon choosing the Yankees over his World Champion Red Sox just for the money. Loyalty has little say in the business world, I suppose. That’s why I go nuts when I think about my Cardinals potentially letting Pujols go.

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    • Steve says:

      “keep in mind that Mike Lowell is a top defender at 3B, too”

      yes, he is. man, i can’t wait until next season. 2002 is going to be super exciting!

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      • perkinscove says:

        way to be a d*ck. check out his UZR & UZR150 for the past five years, not counting 2009, where he battled injury. go ahead. if you can’t see he’s a great defender with your eyes, take a look at his stats.

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      • perkinscove says:

        way to be a d*ck. check out his UZR & UZR150 for the past four years, not counting 2009, where he battled injury. go ahead. if you can’t see he’s a great defender with your eyes, take a look at his stats. and 2002 was a really horrible defensive season for him anyway, so i have no clue what you’re talking about.

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      • Steve says:

        you’re right, that was a little too snarky. i apologize, was just making a joke.

        that said, he’s 36. there isn’t much reason to ignore 2009, it’s much more relevant than 2004-2008. anyone watching him play 3B last year (and i realize you root for a team in the NL and probably didn’t see him that much) could see he was pretty much toast.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        +1002

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    • William says:

      He certainly does seem decent, but look at one disturbing trend in his UZR: 2002-2006 avg. errR vs. 2007-2009: 5.5 vs 1.2. That adds up to nearly half a win every year (and is why, for example, 2004′s even more horrendous RngR still didn’t add up to a worse UZR/150, and the slip happened before his injury, so something is coming apart, if not his range. (Not to say he’s horrible, just noting something!) He better hope he gets that range back, though: he gained over half a run EVERY YEAR from 2004-2008 on his improved range alone.

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  17. JRCAPECOD says:

    Hate this trade right now. Sox have a lack of hitting, with a huge void in left, a question mark at DH, Pedroia suddenly looking mediocre and everyone else having prolonged slumps in ’09. Sox can ill afford to be giving away their most consistent hitter and a known commodity. As for defense, Lowell made some amazing run-saving plays in the playoffs, showing he can still be gold glove caliber at the position. Beltre has no bat and is not the answer. Wake up Theo! You’re supposed to be adding bats, not deducting them.
    How ’bout this one? Youk, Pedroia, Drew, Papi, & $90 million in cash to Cincinatti for Paul Janish.

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    • dids U R 1 says:

      “Pedroia suddenly looking mediocre”

      in what world is a 5+ WAR player mediocre

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    • Sean says:

      I’ll miss Lowell, too, but you have to remember that this deal is just as much about 2011 (and beyond) as it is about 2010. Say they kept Lowell this year and don’t sign Beltre. Who plays 3rd in 2011? There’ll be some great 1B/DH types on the market soon, but no great 3B options, and no appealing Sox farmhands on the horizon. And before you say it: Youks is getting a little old to switch back to a harder position where he was never as great as he’s been at first. Assuming they sign Beltre, they won’t end up with an MVP candidate but he should give them a good glove and an acceptable bat for a few years at down-market dollars.

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    • Diaz says:

      JRCAPECOD,

      First off, how can you be suprised that Pedroia regressed from his MVP season? Did you really believe that was predictive of his future value. Secondly can you list any other second basemen other than Chase Utley (who by the way is the best 2nd basemen of this generation) who was better offensively than Pedroia, and did not suck defensively (Bye Bye Kinsler)?

      More importantly however, do you believe offense and offense alone is the only way to build a strong team able to compete. I know big offensive teams are more sexy and fun to look at, but good teams need to be well rounded. Unless Lowell can rebound to being a league average third basemen again (not impossible, but not likely either) his positive offensive attributes (OPS + of 108) will be completely undermined by his inability to field his position competently.

      I am a big fan of Mike Lowell, I have very fond memories of him wearing the laundry of my favorite team, but he is not the type of hitter that warrants sacrificing defense at a crucial position. Maybe if he posted a line with an OBP closer to .400 and a SLG around .470 he would be, but he is simply not that type of hitter.

      (Before anyone criticizes my spelling or grammar, I would like to mention that it is 2AM, I just got work, and I am on my second glass of wine. Get over yourselves, we are discussing baseball.)

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