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.