Could Julio Lugo be 2009's Coco Crisp?

While most people are dreaming of an off chance that Dontrelle Willis could recreate himself in a Boston Red Sox uniform, there is recent precedent that might point towards not rushing Julio Lugo out of town quite so quickly.

Tell me if this story sounds even remotely familiar?

An under-performing veteran coming off an injury plagued season, having never fulfilled his promise present at his debut as a member of the Boston Red Sox, has found his position usurped by a rookie down the stretch before entering Spring Training in the unfamiliar position of a high priced back up. Common logic from fans and the greater baseball community already has that player traded to fill other holes and to allow the rookie to take the mantle of their position without impediment.

While most people are dreaming of an off chance that Dontrelle Willis could recreate himself in a Boston Red Sox uniform, there is recent precedent that might point towards not rushing Julio Lugo out of town quite so quickly.
Tell me if this story sounds even remotely familiar?
An under-performing veteran coming off an injury plagued season, having never fulfilled his promise present at his debut as a member of the Boston Red Sox, has found his position usurped by a rookie down the stretch before entering Spring Training in the unfamiliar position of a high priced back up. Common logic from fans and the greater baseball community already has that player traded to fill other holes and to allow the rookie to take the mantle of their position without impediment.
For some reason or another, whether it be a soft trade market for his services or a sudden need to have insurance against handing a rookie a full time job without a parachute, the veteran finds himself having to suck up his pride and play a role he never saw filling a bullet point in his resume; back up/utility player.
Fast forward into the following season and that same player finds himself getting regular playing time due to a variety of injuries, eventually playing his way into a staring role through the post-season as the rookie who replaced him the season prior struggled.
Keep moving the time line forward, and the Red Sox do eventually trade that veteran to fill a hole the year following getting slightly more value in return and a season’s worth of performance out of a role many viewed as a trivial roster spot.
Of course, if you weren’t paying attention to this post’s headline or recent Red Sox history, you might still have some question as to whom this parable applies. For most of you however, the story of Coco Crisp’s 2007/08 season is readily apparent.
How transferable is that story to situation that now presents itself regarding the services of Julio Lugo in 2009?
Clearly the comparison of Coco Crisp to Julio Lugo can’t be taken at face value. If anything, Coco’s defense had value regardless of his “role” on the roster that Lugo can’t even hope to match. In fact, that very topic is one of Julio’s many detractions.
Much of this conversation also lies entwined with the future of free agent, and resident utility infielder/back up, Alex Cora. For some, Alex Cora represents a clear waste of a roster space. To others, he’s the perfect fit for the role he has admirably filled for three and a half seasons in Boston. If Alex Cora is in the Red Sox plans to continue the back up middle infielder position while being called as the primary back up to Jed Lowrie at the SS position, then Lugo has no role and is clearly expendable.
But if this is the end of Cora’s line in Boston, the need for a back up shortstop better than Gil Velazquez is something that will need to be addressed this off season. Looking at the list of free agents that fit the bill, pickings are slim (Alex Cintron, David Eckstein, Cesar Izturis, Omar Vizquel).
Enter Julio Lugo.
Take the $9 million dollars that he will be paid this year off the table. That money is sunk whether he plays in a Red Sox uniform or dons any other colors in 2009. Is Lugo as good or better an option than any other available back up middle infielder?
If you were to find a dance partner willing to exchange their contractual “garbage” for the Red Sox’, would the pile of scraps you received in return fill any more of a hole than a back up shortstop?
Please, don’t view this as any kind of “pro-Lugo” sentiment. Julio Lugo has been, as I originally feared when he came, a major disappointment. But before we go so far as to run him out of town, it makes sense to look at the other options that could fill the role he could be asked to and consider whether any could do it better than Julio?
At the heart, this decision comes down to one thing; what would you rather have, Alex Cora (or another free agent utility infielder) and Dontrelle Willis ($11 million per year) or Julio Lugo ($9 mm)?

Categories: Coco Crisp Dontrelle Willis Jed Lowrie Julio Lugo

10 Responses to “Could Julio Lugo be 2009's Coco Crisp?” Subscribe

  1. Gerry November 25, 2008 at 6:07 AM #

    Good point, timely made. I would rather Julio than Willis. His speed as a pinch runner could also be a factor in winning games next year.
    I would rather Alex than Julio IN THIS ROLE, as Alex has been acknowledged by Dustin and Jed as a good mentor; and Alex hit OK, with a good OBP.
    On the other hand, I believe the role should be filled by Joe Thurston, who is finally MLB ready, he is versatile and can play IF/OF at or beyond the defensive level of Alex, but with nearly Julio's speed, has emerged as an excellent hitter, and is a team sparkplug and 2008 PawSox MVP. I would ask Alex to coach 1st base in 2009, as he projects to be a fine coach/manager, and tutor Dustin, Jed and Joe.

  2. B November 25, 2008 at 7:22 AM #

    Intersting article. Gerry all your points are excellent. I watched poor Joe get booed at Fenway but I think he was in for Manny. He has put up solid number down in Pawtucket and seems to have found his stride. I'm actually surprised not to hear his name in rumored in trade talks.
    I'd love to see AC get a shot to break into coaching here in Boston. He's a class act. I wonder if he's ready to give up the spikes yet though? But if the Sox offered he may be intrigued.
    As far as Lugo/Willis. I think if they both had good turnaround years Willis, as a starting pitcher, might have more value.
    I've read the Tigers are looking at Jack Wilson for SS. I guess that would put an end to the Willis talk. Then we might get to watch Lugo try to follow in Coco's footsteps as Tim suggests.

  3. bob November 25, 2008 at 7:53 AM #

    I understand the logic, but I think there are better options. Crisp was bad, but never as brutal as Lugo has been, everyone knew this signing was a mistake except apparently Theo, who for whatever reason always had a hard-on for Lugo (Remember '05 when he almost traded Manny and Lugo was one of the pieces in the deal, or '06 when he again tried to get Lugo before he went to LA). This just isn't going to happen and it might be worth it to see if someone else's garbage can make a contribution. I also agree with Gerry that Thurston could probably contribute off the bench, he certainly couldn't be much worse than Lugo.

  4. Colin November 25, 2008 at 10:16 AM #

    Lugo got his ring and his fun times. He can move on to greener pastures…
    I gave Drew and chance and he came through. I did the same for Lugo and was consistently disappointed.
    Where's radiohix when you need him?

  5. Evan November 25, 2008 at 10:28 AM #

    I think that the downgrade from Crisp to a different option was appreciably larger than the downgrade (if you can call it that) from Lugo to another infielder.
    That said, it's a very valid point.
    I still think we should assume most, if not all, of his salary, dump him for a prospect that has an outside shot at being something and bring in a utility guy.

  6. Alex November 25, 2008 at 11:03 AM #

    I'm not sure Cora is ready to be a coach just yet as he probably has one or two more years left in him. I would re-sign him to a one year contract with no options because having to decline an option on the red sox part could turn him off to returning as a coach. In my opinion Thurston is one of those players who is taylor made for the Japanese league. He's an all-star, MVP, gold glover, Mr. Universe in the minors but can't cut it in the majors. He would make a ton of money if he made the move to Japan. Kevin Millar was originally going to Japan before he signed with the red sox and when he signed the contract he gave up about $10 million extra dollars the japanese team would have paid him.

  7. Sean O November 25, 2008 at 11:53 AM #

    Lugo suuuuuuuuuucks

  8. M.A.G November 25, 2008 at 12:45 PM #

    Lugo is no Coco. Lugo is not only an awefull hitter, he is a bad defender too. Coco's glove was excellent, and that fact alone put him head and shoulders above Lugo.
    We need to trade Lugo for anything. Ideally I would like to see him as a minor chip in some package for our next catcher. But the truth is his trade value is next to nothing. So, probably the most realistic scenario is the swap of Lugo for Willis that has been reported.

  9. Gerry November 29, 2008 at 11:07 PM #

    Alex, we won't know if he can make it in the majors unless and until he is given a good shot. His 8 AB at the start of the 2008 season isn't even a sip of coffee, just barely a sniff. IMO, his earlier experience with other teams do not apply, otherwise I would agree with you, as this late bloomer just wasn't ready previously. He has arrived, and needs to get a good look.

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