Sox interested in Derek Lowe; bullpen questions

Pass on Lowe. If the Sox could let him go after 2004 and his postseason heroics due to a concern about his pitching ability and his off-the-field issues, why bring him back four years later at a salary that should be at least $15 million and years not less than four?

Could an old friend be coming back to Boston?

Tony Massarotti has the goods in yesterday’s article, saying the Red Sox have shown the most interest in Lowe out of all the free agent pitches for three major reasons: heath, price, effectiveness.

It’s hard to argue against that reasoning, especially when Mazz breaks down the free agent signings in 2006. Of 15 pitchers signing multi-year, big money salaries, only three (Ted Lilly, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Gil Meche) have held up their end of the bargain… and their contract isn’t over yet.

It seems as if Theo Epstein knows this, as he’s only made three huge deals with pitches: Curt Schilling, Matsuzaka and Matt Clement. And even Clement was just on a three-year pact, which is golden. If only we were so lucky with Julio Lugo.

Considering Derek Lowe has made Boston his preferred destination, would he be willing to take a discount to return? Perhaps, but with Scott Boras as his agent, that discount won’t be much. Still, this is a situation worth monitoring, because it’s become very apparent the Red Sox are interested in bringing aboard a starter and not having a question mark in the No. 5 slot.

MY OPINION (not that you asked for it): Pass on Lowe. If the Sox could let him go after 2004 and his postseason heroics due to a concern about his pitching ability and his off-the-field issues, why bring him back four years later at a salary that should be at least $15 million and years not less than four?

Lowe had a great four years with the Dodgers and I don’t begrudge Theo for letting Lowe leave at all, but what overwhelming reason is there to bring him back that wasn’t there in 2004? His four years of sustained success? This is a guy who threw a no-hitter, won 21 games and saved 42 games for the Red Sox. If that’s not success enough in a Sox uniform, why would success in a Dodgers uniform dictate bringing him back?

I’d be more interested in signing Brad Penny to a low base/high incentive contract and see if he can revert to 2007 form instead of the injury-plagued 2008 he had. We have the depth if Penny doesn’t pan out: Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden. Sure, we could see one or two of the group leave in trade talks which would rachet up the pressure on the rotation, but even then I’d go for a Ben Sheets type, who will command less years (probably three, maybe even two) who can start an All-Star game.

Don’t leave out the bullpen

While the Sox contemplate signing Derek Lowe and going hard after Mark Teixeira (which is a whole different set of circumstances on its own) the bullpen still needs some fixin’.

Mazz found three key tenets the Sox look for in a reliever, but they don’t necessarily abide by it. David Aardsma is an example, as you will see. The three tenets:

  • Having at least two pitches rated average.
  • A strikeout rate that is at least average, or a high propensity to inducing groundballs
  • No big-money deals.

The first tenet was violated by Mike Timlin last year. The second could include Aardsma. While he does have a good strikeout rate, he also walks a ton, which mitigates this tenet somewhat. The last tenet will be violated eventually with Jonathan Papelbon. Again, there are exceptions, but overall, it’s a nice theory to follow.

It does take the wind out of my sails of hoping that the Sox sign Will Ohman, but it’s probably for the best. Mazz identifies Doug Brocail as someone the Sox may look after. They may also elect to stand pat and see if Daniel Bard can make the jump to the majors or plug the final spot until he can with a Devern Hansack or Kyle Snyder.

Mazz also suggests bringing back Brandon Lyon. Lyon, a former Blue Jay prospect, showed signs of getting things together in his first season with Boston before being dispatched to Arizona in the Curt Schilling trade. He comes back with solid credentials and a closing record (as spotty as it may be).

Apparently the Sox have always had interest in Brocail, who is 41. Brocail was out of commission in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons but since returning has made himself a fine reliever. Last year for Houston, he had a 3.93 ERA, 21 walks, 64 whiffs, 8 homers and 63 hits in 68.2 innings. It’s a pretty strong line, and I wouldn’t be averse to bringing him in on a one-year deal. However, there will be other teams out there, particularly in the National League, that will throw him more money than the Sox should.

Really, would it be so bad if the Sox stood pat on the bullpen and filled it with internal holes, trying to find something that fits for the last pitcher out of the gate? All of the other relievers are proven and effective. Should we go all out for that last spot, or do we let the Hansacks and Snyders battle it out while the Bards and Hunter Jones’ of the world wait for their shot?

MY OPINION (not that you asked for it): I like the Lyon idea. Over the last few years, he’s established himself as a capable reliever. He won’t break the bank and should do a fine job for us. But if we’re not going to break the bank on any reliever, then I’m not inclined to go much farther than Lyon or Will Ohman. Doug Brocail could be given a shot, I wouldn’t mind.

Free agency officially starts on Friday. Let the frenzy begin.

Categories: Ben Sheets Brad Penny Brandon Lyon Derek Lowe Doug Brocail

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

21 Responses to “Sox interested in Derek Lowe; bullpen questions” Subscribe

  1. M.A.G November 13, 2008 at 8:41 AM #

    For me, the bottom line is we have to sign another starter, because we have a hole in the rotation, and we need to trade (at least) one of our top pitching prospects for our next catcher.
    Not to excited about Lowe. Besides CC, I will be more inclined to go after the shortest contract possible. And the truth is the idea of Kawakami begins to have more sense to me. We don't need him to be an Ace, but only a solid back-end of the rotation guy, and he will be significantly cheaper than the other options, so we are really not risking much.

  2. JaredK November 13, 2008 at 10:05 AM #

    I like Penny if it is a one year deal, he may be interested in re-establishing his value in 2009 and getting a long-term deal in 2010. He'd make a nice # 5 option and if he gets hurt, either Clay or Bowden can replace him (assuming they aren't moved). I've always gotten the impression that Penny is an a-hole and not well liked but Drinky McDrinks (Lowe) has his own issues and were certainly be more costly in terms of dollars and years.

  3. Shane November 13, 2008 at 10:55 AM #

    If the front office thinks that Penny is healthy, then I think he might be a better short term option over Lowe.
    Off topic, does anybody else wonder why they guy who "lost 46 pounds in 3 months" in the add sometimes to the right is naked in doors and out? And is the loss of chest hair a side effect of the weight loss?

  4. JaredK November 13, 2008 at 11:06 AM #

    I wonder if you click the "Read my story" link if it explains his pants situation…I'm scared to click it.

  5. JaredK November 13, 2008 at 11:15 AM #

    The Cubs just got Gregg for relief prospect/heavy weight Juan Ceda …gotta think Wood is on his way out. Not sure if he would settle for a set-up role but would love to see him here. If he got injured we have Masterson as insurance for the 8th. I imagine the Mets may consider him as well, will save them money for a starting pitcher as well. I imagine the Rangers may be in play as well since he is a Texas boy.

  6. Bob November 13, 2008 at 12:07 PM #

    Yankees acquired Swisher form the White Sox, some are playing it up as if he's a Giambi replacement, but I don't think this necessarily precludes them from signing Teixeira. They can always stick Swisher in the outfield or at DH.

  7. Daniel Rathman November 13, 2008 at 12:21 PM #

    The Swisher move is a great one for the Yankees, if all it cost them was Marquez, Betemit, and Jhonny Nunez. From the White Sox standpoint though, I don't get it at all.
    That said, I do think this at least means the Yankees will not pursue Teixeira as aggressively as they would have. They could potentially go with Swisher in left, Damon in center, and Nady in right, but that would be a terrible defensive outfield. It would also block Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera completely, though they could now look to move them.
    I'm guessing that Swisher will end up playing 1B for the Yanks, and — if anything — this will allow them to pad their offer to Sabathia even more. Swisher is due about $22 million over the next 3 years, which pales in comparison to what they'd have to pay Teixeira, and makes throwing $150 million (or possibly well more than that) at Sabathia a little more palatable.
    Regardless, gotta tip my hat to Cashman on this one. Looks like a great deal for NY.

  8. Evan November 13, 2008 at 12:38 PM #

    Yeah, Swisher was a fantastic pickup for the Yankees. White Sox definitely bought high and sold low. Honestly, I'm really surprised.

  9. JaredK November 13, 2008 at 1:14 PM #

    I really wanted Swisher,,,he made a ton of sense for us in terms of his flexibility in the field and his patience at the plate.

  10. M.A.G November 13, 2008 at 1:41 PM #

    I liked Swisher too. Damn White Sox. He looked like a great option for 4th outfielder (and 1st baseman). Now Baldelli sounds like the best option for us in that position.
    And the Yankees are gonna go after Teixeira anyway. They have loads of money to burn, and they want to make a big splash after his poor last season. They are the frontrunners for Teix and CC.

  11. Sam K November 13, 2008 at 2:22 PM #

    Derek Lowe?
    Is anyone buying his last four years? Four years in a fantastic pitcher's park? Four years in the NL, the weaker league? Four years in the NL West, an extremely weak division in recent memory?
    Derek Lowe?
    I'd rather stand pat.
    If we insist on spending money (and a lot of money at that), then why not at least spend it on a pitcher with a better chance of helping the ballclub? If not Sabathia, then Burnett or Sheets, who WILL spend time on the DL over the life of a 3 or 4 year deal but WILL pitch well when healthy. We have no such guarantees about Lowe. He's a safe bet to be healthy, but we don't need to pay a guy $12m-15m a year to have an ERA at or above 5.00 at the back end of our freaking rotation.

  12. gerry November 13, 2008 at 5:09 PM #

    Sam is so right. Lowe/Boras costs almost as much as AJ, which is almost as much as CC, which seems ridiculous.
    If Buchholz and Bowden were ready now, this conversation wouldn't be happening. But Clay won't be ready until May at least. Would we sign a top FA to get into May?
    As there is such resistance to the risk of a FA, and as there is, literally, no one available on our so-called deep roster, I will keep suggesting Masterson to start as #5 in April, stretching out in the rotation, with 4 – 5 wins, until Buchholz comes up as the next Ace. In May, Masterson becomes Monsterson in the Pen. Result? Two mature young, star pitchers at age 24. Two problems solved.
    If we are silly enough to trade Buchholz or Bowden, my first choice, like MAG would be to sign CC, but would be happy with Sheets or Penny short term. Either could become a 4th Ace, and when someone gets hurt (Wake, Beckett, Sheets)the Sox will have this remarkable depth to stay in win mode.
    To win the American League Pennant, the Sox need add a potential Ace, AND maintain sufficient depth to carry a potentially injury-prone rotation through the post season; (alternative? trading top talent by August.) Wasteful. To re-establish this balance, the Sox MUST keep star prospects Buchholz and Bowden and sign Tazawa and hopefully Kawakami, and pick up Sheets or Penny. SP problem solved.

  13. radiohix November 13, 2008 at 11:23 PM #

    Hey Evan,
    Any post about the 2009 Baseball America's Top 10 Red Sox Prospects? Some of the ranking surprised me a lot!
    here's the link:

  14. M.A.G November 14, 2008 at 4:04 AM #

    I was pleseantly surprised to see Hagadone is still so highly regarded by BA (3rd place). Aparently he is recovering very well from TJ, which mean we have another SP in the minors.
    And another thing that surprised me: according to BA, Casey Kelly has the best curveball in the whole system. The future of that kid is on the mound.

  15. radiohix November 14, 2008 at 5:26 AM #

    The thing with BA is that they rank prospects based on discussions with scouting and player development staff, so they tend to value raw stuff more than actual production, and to give high rankings to recent draftees(see Casey Kelly, who didn't pitch a game yet in the MiL, but he's ranked 6th!), all I'm saying is that they should give more weight to prospects who have succeeded throughout the minors and are close to the majors than exciting recent draftees

  16. M.A.G November 14, 2008 at 8:18 AM #

    BA rank prospects according to the overall potential of the player. Not acording to his readyness. And that's what I like about BA. I mean, we know we have players like Zinc or Carter who are more ready to enter the majors than Almanzar or Kelly, but we also know they are never gonna be as good as Almanzar and Kelly can be.
    BA ranking is a ranking of your best prospects. Not a ranking of your more ripe prospects.

  17. M.A.G November 14, 2008 at 8:58 AM #

    By the way, the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggest a trade of Shoppach for Masterson. Shoppach is not my first option, but the price sounds reasonable.

  18. gerry November 14, 2008 at 11:03 AM #

    MAG, I'm the one that suggested Shoppach, but you know what I think of trading Masterson for him.

  19. Evan November 14, 2008 at 11:05 AM #

    By the way, Mazz sees the Sox signing a low risk high reward pitcher like Penny as well.

  20. M.A.G November 14, 2008 at 12:37 PM #

    Yes, Gerry, I know. But you know in that point we have a disagreement. For me, catching is the first priority right now, and I'm ready to pay the price. I understand your aversion to lose pitching depth (pitching is my second priority), but it's a sacrifice I'm ready to make. We have the oportunity to add a special player like Salty in the most premium of all positions, and I don't want to lose it.

  21. M.A.G November 14, 2008 at 12:42 PM #

    Besides, as much as I value pitching, I don't think we can afford to have a hole in our lineup for another full year either. Tek is a disaster, and he has been really harmfull for us this season.