Lowell to Texas, Beltre to Boston… And a Cherry Named Maximiliano

MLB Florida Marlins vs Boston Red Sox
Lowell to Texas, Beltre to Boston? This rumor has been cooking for a long time, and it may finally be ready for consumption. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Red Sox and Rangers have a deal in place that would send Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers, with the Sox receiving top catching prospect Max Ramirez. Many expect the trade to be a precursor to the signing of Adrian Beltre. As per Rosenthal, the Sox would contribute a substantial portion of Lowell’s contract - in his words, with the Sox “eating nearly all of [Lowell’s] 12 [million dollar] salary.” Dan Barbarisi of the Providence Journal, on the other hand, has the Sox providing “at least half” of the deal. We likely won’t know for some time which of the two price tags will win out, but be certain that it will significantly affect the team’s outlook for the remainder of the winter. Is this the Sox answer to the Granderson deal in New York? Probably not. This isn’t the kind of blockbuster trade that substantially alters the team for 2010. In fact, the trade is curious in the sense that it would significantly hinder the team’s ability to maneuver for free agents for the rest of the off-season – and could put them out of the running for either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday...
MLB Florida Marlins vs Boston Red Sox

Lowell to Texas, Beltre to Boston?

This rumor has been cooking for a long time, and it may finally be ready for consumption. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Red Sox and Rangers have a deal in place that would send Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers, with the Sox receiving top catching prospect Max Ramirez. Many expect the trade to be a precursor to the signing of Adrian Beltre.

As per Rosenthal, the Sox would contribute a substantial portion of Lowell’s contract – in his words, with the Sox “eating nearly all of [Lowell’s] 12 [million dollar] salary.” Dan Barbarisi of the Providence Journal, on the other hand, has the Sox providing “at least half” of the deal. We likely won’t know for some time which of the two price tags will win out, but be certain that it will significantly affect the team’s outlook for the remainder of the winter.

Is this the Sox answer to the Granderson deal in New York? Probably not. This isn’t the kind of blockbuster trade that substantially alters the team for 2010. In fact, the trade is curious in the sense that it would significantly hinder the team’s ability to maneuver for free agents for the rest of the off-season – and could put them out of the running for either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.

Though Beltre can be considered the better asset of he and Lowell for the upcoming season (of course, assuming he is the team’s third baseman of choice), the amount of money committed to the departing Lowell is surprising considering the amount of capital it would tie up.

The expected price of a Beltre signing is quite high, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. John Tomase of the Boston Herald quotes a figure of $13 million per year over four to five years. Ed Price of AOL FanHouse expects a deal in the $10-$11 million range.

Accounting for Lowell’s contractual obligations, the team will could be contributing a total anywhere from $16-$25.5 million during 2010 to bring Adrian Beltre into the fold.

With Marco Scutaro already signed, a subsequent Beltre acquisition would certainly downgrade the chances of any more free agent splashes for the rest of the offseason. Following such a move, the team would have $100-$110 million committed to just 10 players, accounting for the obligations to Lugo and Lowell – a figure that does not include the arbitration cases of Jon Papelbon (received $6.25 million in 2009), Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, or the settlement of the remaining players on the roster.

The deal would all but kiss financial flexibility goodbye. While a low-cost signing would be a possibility, the top candidates are beginning to fly off the table as well – everyone’s favorite injury case, Rich Harden, is expected to sign with the Rangers shortly. Ben Sheets apparently wants a $12 million dollar deal.

The shape of the Lowell deal will have tremendous ramifications on the competitiveness of the team for the 2010 season. Too much money invested in moving Lowell could prevent a Holliday or Jason Bay signing, signaling that the team is seriously considering other options, such as acquiring Mike Cameron, switching either he or Jacoby Ellsbury to left field. It could also mean that they are committing to Jeremy Hermida, or at least seriously discussing that as a contingency.

A Beltre-Lowell transition would be a curious move at best, assuming that Beltre were to sign for 4-5 years at around $13 million per year. It would marginally improve the team’s third base spot for 2010, while possibly preventing them from signing other free agents, a negative for the team’s prospects at competing this upcoming year. It would also tie up significant resources over the next few seasons for a hitter coming off of a poor, injury-riddled season who is also heading into his latter years.

Maybe it would have been better to let Lowell’s contract expire at the end of the season. For a very capable, intelligent front office, buying out all of Lowell’s 2010 salary doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Then again, it is still just speculation at this juncture.

The point cannot be understated. Should the Sox commit to all of Lowell’s 2010 salary while subsequently signing Beltre to an expensive deal, this could be the white flag on 2010 as there may not be enough space in the budget to sign a marquee offensive left fielder. If it is only half, they could still be in the running. Only time will tell.

However, knowing the Red Sox and the competitive nature of this franchise and front office, expect them to keep pulling out the stops in the pursuit of a successful 2010.

The Cherry Named Maximiliano

Maximiliano Ramirez. Or, more appropriately, Max Ramirez. Call it buying a prospect, as the Sox have been craving a potential long term fix at the catching spot ever since 2005 when Varitek signed his infamous “Captain’s Deal”. Sure, it was good for a couple seasons, but, by the end, it was an inescapable albatross due to the player and his meaning to the city of Boston. Sure, V-Mart can hold the fort for a little while, but his deal expires this year and he’s never been much of a catcher to begin with. As such, the Sox are still exploring options.

In a perfect world, Ramirez will establish himself as the answer to the Sox’ never ending, four-year long string of prayers. But, this is not a perfect world, and accordingly, Ramirez is far from a perfect player.

Signed by the Braves as an 18 year-old out of Venezuela, Ramirez began his playing career for Gulf Coast League Braves in 2004. He showed good power and a decent command of the strike zone there for a young catcher, hitting 8 home runs in 204 at-bats on his way to an .819 OPS. However, with 50 strikeouts on the season, he had a little ways to go in the contact department.

Ramirez had a very similar season repeating rookie ball in 2005, though a .347/.424/.527 line gave his prospect shine some shine. A great 2006 in A-ball, on the shoulders of a 76:90 BB:K rate, prompted a trade to the Indians’ organization, where he stayed through 2007 before moving to the Rangers’ organization in the latter part of that year.

2008 was truly a banner year for Ramirez. His power came around in a big way, as he hit 21 home runs in 326 at-bats across three levels, debuting in the majors late in the year. Still, while his power and walk numbers were more than adequate, his strikeouts continued to be problematic, especially at the major league level. Albeit in a small sample of 46 at-bats, his performance was indicative of his recent struggles with making contact, as he struck out in 15 of those at-bats.

Sent to triple-A to start 2009, the season was the worst of Ramirez’s career. His first time at the level, the catcher seemed to battle himself just as much as opposing pitchers, struggling in every facet of his game. The strikeouts, once just a nuisance, were now a severely hindering his value, with 89 Ks in 274 at-bats. Though the walks were still there in good quantities, 35 in total, his power all but left him, as he slugged just 5 long balls all season. All told, Ramirez was just a shell of himself, hitting a combined .234/.323/.336 line on the season.

Now 25, Max Ramirez is at a crossroads in his career. Once a top catching prospect in one of the best farm systems in the majors, Ramirez is struggling to regain that status amidst rampant contact problems and questions about his defense. Said Baseball America at the beginning of the 2009 season,

“Scouts question whether Ramirez can stay behind the plate, where his arm is fringy, his release is slow, his hands are stiff and his agility is below-average… and his future might be as a first baseman/DH/fill-in catcher.”

Certainly not a ringing endorsement of Ramirez’s receiving skills, he is now fighting an uphill battle for a long major league career.

2010 will be a very important year for Ramirez’s development and outlook as a potential major league. Once one of the better catching prospects in the game, Ramirez will have to improve upon his contact abilities and regain his power if he wants to have a shot at a major league career. Though the Sox should be commended for squeezing a legitimate backstop prospect out of this deal – especially one in the upper minors – his value is very much in flux, and the team has plenty of those types in its system.

For the upcoming season, watch Ramirez’s strikeouts and power numbers. If they can come around – or, even if just his power can return – he will be a contributor to the Boston team. If not, the Sox will have to continue their search for their backstop of the future.

A Farewell to Arms

And if the deal does go through – which would include the actual confirmation of the deal, the players passing physicals, and Bud Selig signing off on the exchange of dollars – it will be a sad day in Boston as one of the town’s favorite, and more improbable heroes will have left its soil for green(er?) pastures. Hey, Texas ain’t Boston, and no one’s pretending it is. Though, they are looking like solid contenders for 2010 and could even fight the Sox for the Wild Card next season. So much for never dealing with the enemy.

Even so, Mike Lowell will exit Boston with his head held high. In a fit of ultimate irony, the once-maligned poison pill of the Josh Beckett deal became one of the team’s biggest assets, even outperforming Beckett by 1.3 WAR in 2006. Remember, the Sox were making a huge concession in taking on Lowell’s contract at the end of 2005, a season in which he hit 8 home runs in 500 at-bats, with a .236/.298/.360. Ouch. That’s one huge pill.

With a World Series championship under his belt and plenty of baseball jerseys to bear witness to his time in Boston, Fire Brand and the entirety of Red Sox Nation thank you for your time in Boston. Good luck in Arlington!

Categories: Adrian Beltre Boston Red Sox Max Ramirez Mike Lowell Texas Rangers

26 Responses to “Lowell to Texas, Beltre to Boston… And a Cherry Named Maximiliano” Subscribe

  1. M.A.G. December 10, 2009 at 6:59 AM #

    I liked the idea of trading Lowell, as a prelude to trade for someone significant. In fact, I think Max Ramirez could be a valuable piece in an eventual trade for a big player like A-Gon or even Halladay.

    But if we sign Beltre we are screwed. I know Beltre has a fantastic glove and he should hit better in Fenway. In other words, I know he is valuable. But signing him means closing the door permanently on an elite first baseman. If we sign Beltre then there is no place for the big bat we need so desperatly. And not only that, but signing him reduce the posibilities of signing Holliday, and in that case we are losing the oportunity to make a big upgrade to LF as well.

    So, signing Beltre looks like a comitment to mediocrity right now.

    • Sean O December 10, 2009 at 12:56 PM #

      But, the only thing we do is commit to mediocrity, and so I guess we should get used to it. The difference is, Beltre has a great potential for upside, is an elite fielder, is coming off of a down year that will depress his value, and is a dead-pull righty coming to Fenway.

      I've definitely changed my mind on Beltre, I think we should go for it up to the 4/36 signed by Figgins. He isn't the greatest hitter in the world, but he could be over .860 when you factor in Fenway. His away numbers are good, and show no signs of being flukish.

      I'd rather have Adrian Gonzalez as well, but Theo simply doesn't want to get great players. So we acquire players with huge problems in one way or another, and just hope we don't overpay too much. We got screwed with Lowell, but the difference between Scutaro and Beltre is that Beltre is a elite fielder likely to improve over his recent numbers.

      • M.A.G. December 10, 2009 at 10:57 AM #

        I actually like Beltre too. But he cannot be even compared to Adrian Gonzalez. And even if we don't get Gonzalez this offseason, he should be a priority in the near future. That guy is simply too perfect for Boston. And given the fact the Yanks already have Teixeira, we should be considered the next team of Gonzalez.

        And, of course, you know I think Holliday MUST be signed at all costs.

        • M.A.G. December 10, 2009 at 4:12 PM #

          And 13/5 is way too expensive for Beltre.

  2. Mike Rogers December 10, 2009 at 11:20 AM #

    How is this a good thing? Lowell wasn't terrible last year, and it sounds like he's healthier now… Is there any reason to be excited about Max Ramirez? I suppose we get to pay another person to play for a different team, and we seem to really enjoy that.

    • evanbrunell December 10, 2009 at 4:27 PM #

      It's only a good thing if the Sox re-invest in the major league club what we lose in Lowell. No question our O is weaker than when we entered the winter meetings. Only time will tell if another domino will fall.

  3. _Marcos_ December 10, 2009 at 11:35 AM #

    BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!

    Red Sox sign big time pitcher
    Boof Bonser

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sean O December 10, 2009 at 11:46 AM #

      You laugh, but these are the types of deals I like. I'd rather have players with theoretical upside in AAA rather than AAAA journeymen.

      • Shane December 10, 2009 at 12:01 PM #

        Boof cost nothing and is a great option as rotation insurance. Plus his name is BOOF.

    • evanbrunell December 10, 2009 at 4:28 PM #

      Eh, Bonser and the new Ramon Ramirez will compete for a bullpen spot. Not shocked if Boof ends up starting in AAA.

  4. Gerry December 10, 2009 at 11:46 AM #

    If Mike's hip is, as reported, progressing well and he would be able to play 3b in April, this is an awful deal. Mike, in 119G playing hurt, ranked among all 3b with 400AB #7 in BA and SLG, and # 12 in RBI & HR. Mike put up .290/.337/.474/.811 with 17HR/75/54R in just 119G. He could not run (should not have been playing post surgery, but they asked, and he is a warrior) and had little lateral movement, but his hands, glove, arm, reflexes remained gold glove. In 2010 with his hip healthy, he will regain lateral movement, play near GG defense, and be an even better hitter. Consider his motivation in a swan song year.

    Unceremoniously dumping one of the best players, best bats, and best guys on the team is a pill of even greater bitterness. Paying about $8M of his salary and paying Beltre $10 – 13MM means the 3b position will cost $18 to $21M in 2009, for a Beltre who has declined for 3 years and had an awful 2009. Further, locking in Beltre for even 3 years prevents a trade for AGon or MCab, as Youk will have no place to go, while effectively blocking Lars and Rizzo, and probably means losing Victor in 2011. We can love Max's offensive potential, but he is a very weak defender. Because he can't be traded until mid-June, he hinders the development of Wagner (an excellent defender and arm and good bat), Expo and Fedex, and relegates Brown to the Sox trash bin with Bailey, Van Every, etc. Adrian Beltre, a gold glove with defining bat coming off an injury year replaces a gold glove with productive bat coming off an injury year. There are those who complained bitterly about Mikes $12MM contract. Will they complain about Beltre's $13MM contract, and the multiple negatives he brings to the team? I doubt, no matter how much spin ESPN and MLB Red Sox and Mazz puts on it, that Red Sox fans will be happy to lose Mike in this manner.

    • M.A.G. December 10, 2009 at 7:06 AM #

      Good points, Gerry…

    • M.A.G. December 10, 2009 at 7:23 AM #

      Ramirez can't be traded until mid-June? That's bad news. Why?

      • Shane December 10, 2009 at 12:29 PM #

        I think that you can't trade a player that's accepted Arb till mid June, if they don't approve the trade. As far as I know they'd be able to trade Max.

    • evanbrunell December 10, 2009 at 4:30 PM #

      I enjoyed Bailey and Van Every, don't get me wrong, but they are players you don't care about losing. He shouldn't be considered. He definitely doesn't block Expo and Fedex. Brown is 27 years old and is likely leaving the organization — carrying 5 catchers on the 40 doesn't make sense.

    • donna December 10, 2009 at 7:35 PM #

      i agree completely and have to say i feel rather sad to hear RS fans bashing Mikey. I hope this deal falls dead. Mike has more upside in his middle finger, which i wouldn't blame him for using if he gets "dumped", than another catcher right now…it logjams everything up …unless this Ramirez is a cog to another trade but it just spells doom to me.
      Gerry, keep on putting out all these good vibes – you make me happy to be a fellow RS fan!!!

  5. TroyPatterson December 10, 2009 at 1:16 PM #

    Beltre + Youk = 9.5-10 WAR in 2010
    Youk + Gonzalez = 12 WAR in 2010

    The question is, is that 2 WAR worth the prospects it will cost? Probably including our #3 starter and then having to replace him with an older pitcher?

    • michael w December 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM #

      Interesting post, but I have some reservations about your WAR projections. I doubt that Youk + Gonzalez will be worth 12 WAR next year. Gonzalez had a huge 2009 and his WAR was north of 6, but the three previous years it had hovered around 3.5. Moving to Fenway–which seems ideally suited for his opposite field power– and away from the cavernous PETCO Park will certainly help his numbers, but a part of his WAR surge last year was predicated on good defensive numbers. Unfortunately, he has posted a negative UZR/150 in three of the last five years, and I'm not aware of any reason to think that last year's positive value was more reflective of his actual skill set.

      Youk has been around plus 5 for several years now, and I think it IS realistic to think he will continue to be– at first base. Third is probably a different question. Even with the bump in value he will get by moving to a more difficult position, Youk's defensive contributions may decline. I have yet to see any convincing evidence that the Sox truly view him as a viable full-time option third. This is a difficult projection, but I'm pretty confident that 12 WAR for the pair is overly optimistic.

  6. Russ in Methuen December 10, 2009 at 4:02 PM #

    I don't want Beltre, If the sox are serious about a "bridge" season then put Youk at 3rd, V-mart at 1st and Ramirez and Tek can catch. Beltre will drain your payroll.

    • Sean O December 10, 2009 at 5:11 PM #

      No, players like Scutaro who struggle to hit .720 drain the payroll. Players like Beltre play tremendous defense and were made for Fenway. And, can be signed off of a down year instead of a career year.

  7. Kurt December 10, 2009 at 6:00 PM #

    This is just me wondering outloud…but say we do trade Lowell and sign Beltre….what happens to V-Mart? We know he can't catch long-term, so first base seems like the logical destination. However, with Youk at first and Beltre at third, is V-Mart done in a Red Sox uniform? Does he get an extension with the Red Sox front office viewing him as our next DH who can also play first and catcher occasionally to spell other players?

    • Kurt December 10, 2009 at 6:07 PM #

      Done after this season, when his contract expires I mean, in regard to V-Mart

    • @haroldpike December 11, 2009 at 1:34 PM #

      I personally would like to see the Sox extend V-Marts contract using Ortiz's as a model. He obviously wont be able to catch for much longer and will become just what you think, a DH who can give Youk or whoever the hell the starting catcher will be (Mauer please?) some rest. He is a great hitter, from both sides of the plate, logging a .299/.372/.465 slash line while averaging a little over 20HRs and 100RBI's per season. I would be perfectly happy if Theo put a 3 year 27 million dollar deal on the table to Victor TODAY.

      • Kurt December 11, 2009 at 4:48 PM #

        Couldn't agree more

  8. Daern December 10, 2009 at 7:56 PM #

    Any updates on whether this is legit?

    I hope not–Ramirez really isn't cut out to field as a catcher.

  9. michael w December 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM #

    In regards to the notion that signing Beltre blocks the acquisition of an elite bat: remember how Boston plays in the AL? There's this position called designated hitter (DH). Check it out– it's pretty cool. And it's the position that God built Prince Fielder to play.

    More seriously, I think we all know that the Sox will aggressively target Mauer when he (hopefully) becomes available next year. If they sign Mauer, Victor Martinez has real value as a back up catcher who can spell Mauer behind the plate. Mauer could then DH, keeping both bats in the line up and minimizing the toll that catching takes on a player's offense. Or maybe the Sox can't land Mauer and move on with V-Mart and another catcher. Regardless, I agree with Mr. Pike above. Smart GMs are showing an appreciation for the value of versatility, and what Martinez offers is pretty valueable. Martinez long term makes sense.