So the word in Boston is that Mike Lowell is on the outs, and could be gone within a week. Since he made his displeasure with his semi-platoon with David Ortiz known on May 19th, he has been buried on Terry Francona’s bench. While some of that can be attributed to Ortiz’ resurgence at the plate, he has been struggling lately, yet Lowell hasn’t gotten much of a chance to contribute. In 11 games in June, Ortiz has a .158/.333/.316 line with 1 HR. Considering Ortiz is also hitting just .217/.315/.326 vs. LHP on the year, they surely could have found more at-bats for Lowell, no?
I bring this all on up on the slight chance that the Sox just release Lowell in the next 10 days or so. I assume, by eating the rest of Lowell’s contract, the Sox will be able to find a trade partner. In the offseason, before failing a physical, the Sox had agreed to trade Lowell to Texas for intriguing catcher Max Ramirez. I expect a trade soon, while the Sox will likely get less of a return, they are in more dire need to rid themselves of a potential problem.
If the Sox can’t work out a trade, and Lowell is soon released, how would Lowell look in pinstripes, returning to his original organization? Is there room for him in New York? Would he be happy with the playing time? Would he even consider crossing to the other side of the rivalry? My answers are yes, yes, and yes.
The recent injury to Alex Rodriguez, however minor, has shown what a huge hole is created when he is out of the lineup. While Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada and Nick Johnson have all missed time this year, there were sufficient backups in place which allowed the Yankees to tread water at those positions. At third base, it’s a different story. Not only is A-Rod better than the aforementioned trio, his backups are worse. Ramiro Pena simply cannot hit at the major league level. Kevin Russo has shown nothing with the bat and has seen limited time at 3rd base. If A-Rod were to even go on the 15 day DL, it would be a huge blow to the Yankees.
If A-Rod remains healthy, is there a role for Lowell as a DH? While Lowell is (or was) being used in Boston as a DH against LHP, in his career he has OPS’d .797 against righthanders, so he doesn’t exactly have Marcus Thames type splits. That .797 OPS of course came primarily as a strong fielding 3rd baseman, and not a DH, so there was a ton of value in that type of offensive production. Could you bring in Lowell as a backup at the corners, and give him 60-70% of the at-bats at DH? You could still work Posada in at DH, and have Thames (or now Huffman) DH against lefties. If you are comfortable with Ramiro Pena in the OF, you can send Kevin Russo to Scranton. If you are comfortable with Russo at SS, you can send Pena down. If bringing in Lowell would provide enough of an upgrade, you can make it work roster-wise.
To address my second and third yes votes above, why would Lowell be happy as a part-time player in New York if he’s not happy in Boston? Lowell, frankly, has been bitter since soon after resigning with the Sox after the 2007 World Series. He took a hometown discount as the Phillies were offering him a longer deal, but Lowell wanted to stay with the Sox and took fewer years and total dollars. It wasn’t long before the rumors started about the Sox acquiring new players that would have pushed Lowell out of his starting role. This displeasure was strongly evident when the Sox made the hard push to sign Mark Teixeira after the 2008 season, which would have moved Kevin Youkilis to 3B, and Lowell on the trade block. Lowell was pissed. After winning the World Series MVP and taking a hometown discount, he felt he deserved better. Lowell’s feelings were only compounded this offseason when the Sox signed Adrian Beltre (after many Adrian Gonzalez rumors) to play 3rd, pushing Lowell to the bench. This, a nearly two-year-old chip on his shoulder, just might be enough for Lowell to not only accept a reduced role for another team, but also to do it for the Yankees, just to spite the Red Sox.
There are a lot more questions than answers, and at the end of the day I don’t think the Sox will cut Lowell knowing that he could end up in pinstripes. We don’t know whether Lowell can play even a passable 3rd base anymore. He was terrible in 2009, but was struggling with a major hip injury. We don’t know how much is left in his bat; in 2008 and 2009 he was about league average, and he has just 74 ABs this year. We don’t know if he would consider a part-time role — or any role — with the Yankees. If the Yankees had the opportunity to get Lowell for the minimum, I think it’s something they would have to look into, and see if they can catch lightning in a bottle. If not, they can cut him themselves, no harm, no foul.
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