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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Lowell’


2012 was a nightmare year for the Red Sox. They were mediocre until the Nick Punto Trade. After the trade that freed up all that money for the future, they were downright horrible.

2013 was in incredible surprise. I thought they would be good, but not World Series Champion good until about August. The hopes of Red Sox Nation were restored. The new model seemed to pay off: no long term contracts, overpay if you need to to do it.

Then came the off season. I will admit, I thought they would be better than they have been. But it seems that Ben over-played his hand. There was too much change. I saw recently that most World Series Champions experience about 20% roster change. The question is, what 20% should change. In 2004 they lost Pedro and Damon. Those were very big pieces to lose. In 2005 they were good but were quickly dumped from the playoffs from the eventual World Series Champion White Sox.

They seemed to learn the lesson. After the 2007 championship, they held on to Mike Lowell who was their primary free agent. It would be a mistake as his hips betrayed him. It nearly paid off as they got all the way to game 7 of the ALCS. All they needed was either a healthy Lowell or Beckett to return to the World Series.

After the victory in 2013 they had some difficult decisions to make as Ellsbury, Napoli, Drew and Saltalamacchia were free agents. All of them were key starters. They made reasonable attempts to retain Napoli and Drew. They made a feeble attempt to retain Ellsbury. Who knows, if they made a real offer during the exclusive negotiation period he might not have gone to the Yankees. I would not pay him what they paid him, but I certainly would have offered him more than they did. They decided to move on from Salty.

The reasons for both were the development of prospects at short (Bogaerts), center (Bradley) and catcher (Vazquez and Swihart). The result was that they had a new catcher to buy time for the prospects, an inexperienced left side of the infield in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts and an inexperienced centerfielder. They also took a gamble on a rebuilt Grady Sizemore who looked very promising in Spring Training but created a log jam in the outfield.

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Carl Crawford is a free agent.  Many baseball fans are drooling.  They want their team to sign Crawford.  And for good reason, he is an excellent player.  Years ago, I had wished the Red Sox could get him somehow.  He is a very good defender, hits for a good average and the occasional homerun.  He is an excellent base stealer.  As a result, he disrupts pitchers and gets those after him in the line up some fastballs to crush.

I now depart from the party line that says the Red Sox should get Crawford.  That is not because he’s suddenly a bad player.  It’s simply that he is not what the Red Sox need.  Before Jacoby came up, they needed a player just like Crawford.  Now, not so much.

Jaboby is a very good defender who is actually willing (demanding?) to play centerfield.  Crawford pretty much refused to play CF for the Rays, creating some line up issues for them.  He also resisted hitting lead off.  Makes me wonder if Carl is more about Carl than about the team.  Jacoby has learned to hit lead off, as evidenced by the end of the 2009 season.  It takes players time to learn certain things, and it certainly looked like Ellsbury had learned that skill.  Jacoby already has what Crawford could bring to a team.

Jayson Werth (AP Photo)

The bigger need for the Red Sox is a big bat to hit lefties.  Ortiz has struggled mightily against lefties in recent years.  Lowell is gone for retirement.  V-Mart is probably gone for a more affordable option that can play better defense (Buck?) who doesn’t require as many years.  V-Mart has been reluctant to rotate between 1st and DH, and part of me doesn’t blame him.  He’s getting old for a catcher and that will be necessary toward the end of a contract the length he is seeking.  He’s not worth the money of a premiere  DH or first baseman.  And Beltre might be heading West.

Drew has been struggling against lefties too.  So what you say?  The Yankees have very good lefties to pitch against the Sox.  The Red Sox need to re-balance their line up.  Without a power hitting right hander, the Red Sox will be in trouble for years to come.  The young guns who should be able to get some time in 2012 with Drew’s and Cameron’s contracts ending are not ready to hit for power regularly.  With Ortiz only signed for 1 more year, the Red Sox need some power.  That left field position is historically a power position for the Red Sox (Mike Greenwell excepted).  Crawford does not have the power the Red Sox need.  And Crawford only hits .256 against lefties (.332 against righties).

Jayson Werth is more of what the Red Sox need than Crawford at this time.  He  hits .287 against lefties, and .300 against righties for good balance.  He can play all three outfield positions, and could play DH.  He might not play every night, but he’d play quite abit since Drew is good for some time on the DL, Cameron is getting older and they will face plenty of left handers.

So, here is hoping that Carl Crawford heads out West so we won’t see him much anymore.  He’s earned his big payday, and I don’t begrudge him.  I just don’t think it should be with the Red Sox.

Update: Looks like I called that all wrong.  That Nationals’ deal came out of left field- complete shock.  I still think Crawford is a better player, but Werth a better fit.  But one thing that concerned Theo (and John Lackey) from 2010 was runs given up by the defense, particularly the outfield.  The Sox just strengthened the outfield defense (and Crawford’s weak arm is not a concern at Fenway), and added another guy who works hard and produces.  If he stayed in the AL East, I’m glad we have him.  The Red Sox have a monster line up with lots of speed to boot.  Contrary to some others, I’d put Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia 1-3.  Suddenly you’ve got double steal speed to really mess with pitcher’s heads.  Crawford is not great against lefties, but he’s not horrible either.

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Photo by Stuart Cahill

It is becoming most likely that both Jason Bay and Mike Lowell will be spending 2010 someplace other than Boston.  The left side of the field may see a complete turnover.  What gives?

Two words: offense, defense.

Defense: Lowell’s hip injury made him one of the worst 3rd basemen in baseball.  His recovery may be complete now, and he may do better next year.  But the run differential there was just too big.   The Red Sox decided they could not take the risk.  If you have great pitchers, why give the opposition some free hits?  Lowell, sadly not the defender he once was, was doing just that.

Bay’s defense was average at best.  He was better than Manny Ramirez, but that is not saying much.  One reason Texiera got so much money is that he was an elite hitter AND fielder.  Bay’s estimate of his value (greatly jaded by his agent no doubt) is overestimated, in part due to a failure to recognize his shortcomings in the field.

Offense: Both Lowell and Bay love to pull the ball.  That is a great strategy in Fenway Park.  It has that short left field.  But that strategy doesn’t always play well elsewhere.  A basehit in Fenway (thanks to that Wall) is an out in many other parks.  This was the problem Theo was talking about after the Red Sox wilted against the Angels.  Theo wants a more balanced offense to widen that run differential.  With better defense, and guys who can hit at Fenway and away from Fenway, they will get more wins and more easily.

Though these two guys are good/great teammates, and play hard each and every night, their shortcomings created problems for the Red Sox.  Those shortcomings led to their quick playoff exit.  Theo is in the process of addressing those shortcomings.  It may be painful now, but perhaps it will be a great relief later.

Update: we could include health.  Lowell’s issues are well documented.  But the Red Sox have reservations about Bay’s knee and shoulder which may have affected his game mid-season.

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The Annual Winter Meetings of MLB will be taking place this week.  The free agent signings have begun, but the biggest fish remain to be caught.  A few minor trades have taken place, but there may be some big ones to emerge as GMs and agents converge.

Going into the meetings, the Red Sox have lost 2 players from last season.  Billy Wagner and Saito have both shifted to the formerly of Boston now Atlanta Braves.  Losing Wagner, a type-A free agent, freed up the possibility of solving Theo’s perpetual SS dilemma by signing free agent Marco Scutaro.

Some people have been critical of this move.  But Theo did not pull another Lugo (or Renteria).  The deal was for only 2 years (not 4), and is affordable by baseball standards.

This allows for one of two things to happen.  Either, Jed Lowrie proves he can stay healthy and productive, or more importantly international free agent signee Iglesias proves he can hit as well as field.  The Red Sox have a solid defender who can get on base and score runs in Scutaro.  Though 2009 was his best year he may benefit from being in a better line up and seeing better pitches.  One of the main needs for the Red Sox has been addressed.

That leaves left field as the biggest problem to be addressed.  Jason Bay, in the eyes of some, is their best bet.  I beg to differ.  Yes, Holliday will cost more money.  But his average production is better than Jason Bay’s.  Even when you look at this past year, Holliday is a better hitter.  Holliday strikes out considerably less than Bay.  This means he puts the ball in play more often which means that runners can advance instead of stifling the offense.  He does hit, on average, into 2 more double plays per season than Bay.  He also hits for a bit more power.  His defense is also better than Bay’s.  Bigger bat, and so is his glove.  Theo should be willing to pay a little more to get a better player.

Much has been made about a possible trade for Padres’ first baseman Adrian Gonazalez.  The Red Sox have some chips in major league ready players that could make it possible.  They can offer Lowrie and Casey Kotchman in addition to a few prospects.  Hoyer’s past with the Red Sox can work for him in this regard.  He knows the best players the Red Sox have in their system.

If they were able to pull that off (thereby getting a 2nd big bat to make it a lethal offense) it would make Lowell expendable.  I hate saying that.  He’s, by all accounts, a great guy and has played well for the Red Sox.  But Youk could shift back to 3rd, improving our defense.

This could be an important series of meetings.  I don’t expect the Red Sox to sign a left fielder, but I do expect that a lot of the groundwork for that signing and any important trades should be laid.  It should be a busy week for Theo.

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The Red Sox offense has been downright anemic.  Comatose, I tell you.  And with Smoltz, Buccholz and Penny not exactly being consistent, they need to put some runs on that big board in the outfield.  Theo had a mandate, a mission, and it was not impossible.  The Red Sox have a farm system loaded with players to ship out for guys who play in the Bigs now.

Rumors were non-stop.  But today was the day, and when it all came down the Red Sox were probably better but certainly more mystifying.

Victor Martinez, the switch-hitting, catcher-firstbaseman-DH from Cleveland was a coveted player.  He’s been consistent, and consistently good.  He’s got the power to be a middle of the line up hitter to keep pitchers honest.  The problem is how to get him on the field.  Ortiz, having now hit 2 HRs after learning he tested positive for PEDs in 2003, is the everyday DH.  You don’t want to sit him, right?  You don’t sit Youk unless he’s hurt.  Yes, Varitek has been slumping something awful in a return of 2008 ‘Tek at the plate.  But his true value is calling a game.  He needs more time off, and Kotaras can’t seem to hit even as well as ‘Tek.  So Victor will pick up a few games a week there.

The real question is Lowell.  He can still hit, but fielding has been an issue for him.  It’s the lateral movement, which should force the pitchers to adjust so the ball is not smoked down the left side of the field.  Victor will enable the Sox to give Mikey more time.  And he provides great insurance just in case Lowell is put on the DL again.

With Adam LaRoche sitting in that dugout, they decided to ship him out for a different first baseman.  Kotchman comes over in his place.  He doesn’t have much power, but his splits are better than LaRoche’s vs. lefties.  Gotta be, right?  He will most likely play the Dave Stapleton/Doug M. role this season as the late innings defensive replacement.  Unlike LaRoche, he’s also signed for next season.

All this means the Red Sox aren’t “renting” players.  And all they essentially gave up was Masterson and Hagadone.  I’m thinking the other guys don’t make it to the bigs.  Hagadone is the guy I think has real potential.  But Clay, Bowden and especially Bard remain with the team.

The real challenge is going to be for Francona to keep everyone reasonably happy.  They all want to play, and on most teams would play.  But I’m sure Francona would prefer this problem over the one he had in the ALCS last season when Lowell couldn’t play anymore and they really needed his offense.  Now, wake up bats!  No excuses not to challenge the Yankees.  Too bad they couldn’t pick up

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It has been a busy day for the Red Sox front office as the trade deadline draws near, and the Sox are mired in an offensive slump.  I’m not saying anything needed to be done, but they have not been playing well and have relinquished the AL East lead to the Yankees.

The Red Sox plundered the Pirates again.  I think I might prefer the players the Braves got from them, but Adam LaRoche fills the need they had.  That need is two-fold.  They needed a left-handed hitter with some power.  Mark Kotsay is not to be confused with a guy with power.  Kotsay did a great job filling in at first base when Lowell went down in the playoffs last year.  But the Red Sox needed some power in that line up.  He enables them to platoon a guy with power with Mike Lowell who continues to struggle with a bad hip.

They gave up 2 prospects that were quite unlikely to ever crack the Red Sox’ line up.  They might make the Pirates’ line up though.  Argenis Diaz made some very flashy plays at short, but often blew routine plays and hit a tad better than Alex Gonzalez.  The Red Sox have two other prospects with far better chances of playing SS in the big leagues, one of the their Dominican players and a recently signed Cuban player.  Hunter is perhaps a #4 starter, which we really don’t need.

The big news is that they actually got a warm body for Julio Lugo.  The Cards, in desperate need of warm bodies in the infield since Pujols can only play one position, took him.  They won’t pay any of his salary.

I like the symmetry of this.  The Red Sox’ revolving door at SS started when they did not re-sign Orlando Cabrera after the landmark 2004 season.  Instead they signed the SS for the Cards who made the final out of the 2004 World Series who is now known as Rent-a-Wreck since he played so miserably for the Red Sox that they promptly traded him to Atlanta after the 2005 season.  I think this is the final year of that deal, so they won’t be paying him anymore after this season.  Then we had the great fielding, but light hitting Alex Gonzalez who is also known for getting hurt (though not as much as Pokey Reese).  He was warming the seat until Julio Lugo was a free agent.  Theo promptly paid him $9 million/year, and we have suffered ever since.  He has not hit for anything resembling the power he displayed elsewhere, and had a knack for making errors.

His injuries paved the way for Jed Lowrie who rarely made errors and showed some power until injuring his wrist.  With his wrist surgically repaired, Lugo ran out of time.  Of course, it wasn’t like he was playing.  Throw away Nick Green has been playing solid defense (though mired in an ugly Lugo-like slump).  Lowrie can now platoon with Green until he’s ready to resume his role as starter, hopefully providing some good offense to go along with his solid defense.

So, the Red Sox have dealt with some of their issues as they struggle through the middle portion of the season.  Clay Buchholz makes his second start as Wakefield rests his back.  Plenty of people anticipate Penny being traded (prospects?) should Dice-K get his shoulder strong enough to pitch effectively again.  If he doesn’t, they can still trade Penny and keep Clay in the majors.  He worked out the kinks in his delivery, and his mindset.  Now it is time to take back the East from the Yankees.

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In the midst of juggling my 3 jobs, I’ve decided to come up for air and talk some Boston Red Sox.  Many commentators are focusing on their offense, as if it won’t get it done.

Let’s look back at last season.  We had a less than healthy Papi, a nearly crippled Mike Lowell, an injured Josh Beckett and an absent Wakefield.  Turns out our starting shortstop had a fracture in his wrist too.  Both our hitting and pitching were in trouble.  And we were one win away from the World Series.

This was because Dustin Pedroia continued to improve, and Youk had a career year.  Jon Lester discovered how to pitch deep, and strong.  Dice-K was one lucky guy with a big WHIP and low ERA to garner a good win total.

I’m not as pessimistic about this season as some people.  Yeah, no Money-Ramirez.  That also means far less drama. Jason Bay, while not the one man wrecking crew that an interested Man-Ram can be, is a very good hitter and a better defender who will give you a good effort night after night.  Papi no longer has to worry about his wrist, and Lowell will be healthy.  I don’t expect the 2007 Lowell, since he’s 2 years older, but he should still put up respectable offensive numbers for a 3rd baseman.

What excites me about the 2009 Red Sox is the pitching staff.  We seem to be witnessing a return of Beckett 2007, which means he could be a dominating pitcher now that he’s healthy again.  He has been that guy in Spring Training (yeah, it’s only Spring Training), which he wasn’t last year. 

Although we aren’t sure what we are going to get from Penny and Smoltz, if they flounder we could have Buchholz 2007 to step in.  He seems to have regained a good arm slot, and his confidence.  He’s not the tentative pitcher who was giving up runs like a 2-for-1 special was going on.  Lester has offered us no reason to doubt he’ll continue his domination of hitters.  He’s confident and strong.  With Penny and Smoltz, the Red Sox can occasionally rest Lester, Beckett, and especially Wakefield.

The bull pen should be better (though bull pens are tempermental things).  Masterson was the key to making it steady last year.  If Delcarmen can be consistent (which he seemed to be after Masterson joined the pen), and Saito can set-up and occasionally close, we can have a healthy, aggressive Papelbon for the playoffs.

Pitching wins championships, and the Red Sox have a championship caliber pitching staff.  While their offense will not reach the heights of the 2003-4 Red Sox, it should be more than sufficient to provide the runs this staff needs to be very successful.

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