What Will Happen With Mike Lowell?

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

While Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” fame only needs to worry about the next club he’ll be beating the beat at, “The Situation” currently on the Red Sox roster is a little more complex.

Mike Lowell is not supposed to be on the Boston Red Sox, let alone taking grounders at third base alongside his replacement, Adrián Beltré. In early December the Red Sox agreed to send Lowell to the Texas Rangers along with $9 million of his $12 million dollar 2010 contract for catching prospect Max Ramirez in return. However, about a week after the agreement, Lowell failed the physical due to a thumb injury. The nixed trade did not prevent the Red Sox from signing free agent third baseman Adrián Beltré just after the new year.

Mike Lowell and the Red Sox find themselves in an awkward divorce that has not yet been finalized. There have not been many reports out of Fort Myers regarding potential suitors, and so far Mike Lowell has yet to appear in a spring training game. Earlier in the winter the Boston Globe reported that Mike Lowell was going to head to Florida with a first baseman’s glove as well as his third baseman’s glove in hopes of proving his versatility as well as his overall health.

The reality is the Boston Red Sox have previously leaked negotiations with regard to some players, but it’s worth noting that there has been virtually no stories whatsoever regarding Mike Lowell. The thought here is there might be several teams interested in Lowell, based on whether he can prove that he is fully recovered from both his hip injury as well as the thumb injury that squashed the off-season trade to Texas.

If Mike Lowell is eventually traded, his days as a third baseman might be over as well. While offensively still a threat, Lowell’s fielding suffered greatly as he recovered from a balky hip. While his fielding percentage was only slightly below his career average in 2009, his range has dropped significantly. As recently as 2008, Mike Lowell was worth 13.7 runs saved due to his defense over the average third basemen. In 2009, Mike Lowell allowed 6.6 more runs than the average third baseman due to his decline in range. By comparison, Adrián Beltré saved 5.5 runs over the average third baseman during the 2009 season. What makes this amazing is Beltré suffered through his own myriad of injuries including a partially torn groin. Since Lowell is 5 years older than the new third baseman, it can go without saying that the Red Sox got better defensively and younger by signing Adrián Beltré.

The glaring problem with the Adrián Beltré signing is the perception that he will also perform better than Mike Lowell, offensively. Like many free agent signings before him, Beltré is touted as ‘made for Fenway Park’, with his previous home field a burden on his offensive potential. While it may be true that he could rediscover that home run swing he discovered in 2004 with the LA Dodgers, the undeniable truth is Mike Lowell has previously risen to the occasion offensively over and over again. Balky hip or not, there is a great chance(in this writer’s opinion) that Lowell will outperform Adrián Beltré given the chance to play every day.

What will likely happen to Mike Lowell is something we’ve already seen with the Boston Red Sox. They’ll move him, like they’ve moved other players that no longer fit into the team plans.

Julio Lugo was jettisoned by the team following the emergence of Jed Lowrie and Nick Green during Lugo’s stint on the disabled list. Despite his offensive numbers, Lugo saw little action when he returned from injury. This was the case until Mid-July, when the team designated him for assignment and then traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals. In addition to paying the remainder of his 2009 contract, the Red Sox are also on the hook for his 2010 salary of over $9 million dollars. In return the Red Sox acquired Chris Duncan, who went on to hit .188 with the Pawtucket Red Sox. The team essentially traded Lugo for Nick Green and Jed Lowrie, and it cost them about $13 million dollars.

Barring an injury or sudden disappearance of ability, Mike Lowell will eventually be playing elsewhere during the 2010 season. The hope here is they’re able to acquire talent that might possibly contribute at the major league level.

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