Friday, October 12, 2007

Mike Lowell

The Red Sox start their ALCS series tonight with the Indians - I could talk about that, but it has been covered in way too much detail.

I want to talk about Mike Lowell and what his future is. A Lowell quote came out today saying:
"I love it here and would love to re-sign here," Lowell said. "I’m making that clear. I’m happy with the year I had, and I know that’s going to set a certain thought to what’s going to happen in the offseason."

Of course this is a pretty wide open and politically correct statement - and he could change his tune after the WS and go to the highest bidder (which no one would blame him for doing).

I have been digging to try and find Lowell's value in the marketplace and on the Red Sox team. First, let's explore the marketplace.

Top FA this off season will be:
Mike Lowell (.324/21/120) - GG 3B
Alex Rodriguez (.314/54/156) (if he opts out) - GG 3B/SS - projected to go for $27-30M/yr
Aaron Rowand (.309/27/89) - GG OF - projected to be asking for $14M/yr
Torii Hunter (.287/28/107) - GG OF - projected to be asking for $15M/yr
Adam Dunn (.264/40/106) (club option) - 1B/OF - $13M/yr club option
Andruw Jones (.222/26/94) - GG CF - projected to want $20M/yr
Bobby Abreau (.283/16/101) - GG RF - making $15.6M/yr

Obviously there is only one 3B here, who is somehow in a pay class of his own, but you can see the astronomical asking prices of some other guys on this list how are comparable to Lowell. Lowell and ARod are coming off the best years. Jones/Dunn/Rowand/Hunter are the youngest. Dunn/Jones/Abreau had off years from their averages.

The Rowand projected salary is off base - the guy is great on D and has decent avg and pop, but he's not a game changer. He's more of a 5th hitter than a 3rd or 4th hitter on most teams.

Dunn is obviously a clean up hitter - but he strikes out so often, that $13M sounds about right for his 40 HRs and 200 K's.

Abreau at $15M is stupid too - especially since his OBP and SB's have decreased at his age. I could see him settling in the $12-13M range for 2 or 3 years.

Hunter has had a quiet bat for many years, although some of that is made up by his GG and game changing ability. But $15M/yr? No way. I'd give him $13M maybe.

Andruw Jones is a great player on a down year - but $20M? That is Manny type money - and Manny is overpaid as well. I could see Andruw getting $16M/yr max. He is a prototypical #4 hitter and would be a great addition in a difficult position.

ARod gets to name his own price after the year he just had. Clubs will try desparately to point at his production in the post season, but come on - its a team game. He will get more than the $25M he is making now. Will it be $30M? I hope not - that is just bad for the game. Will ARod take the highest bidder? I doubt it. I think he will choose his situation better this time. The ownership thing was intriguing in Chicago, but maybe ARod wants to BE the franchise at his next stop. In chicago he would be the headliner, but I can't see him playing in a cold weather city. I could see him settling in a city that is warm and forgiving. Would the Giants pay for him? Would Seattle try and get him back? Would the Astros be a good fit? Maybe the Brewers? Who knows. I think the Cubs will be his landing spot - not sure why.

That brings us back to Lowell. The guy is making $11M/yr now - he probably didn't earn that $11M the previous 2 seasons, but he certainly did this season. I would estimate that he was probably worth $13M or so - which would probably make up for the mediocre season the year before. Which is why he "might" sign for a slight discount (in dollars or years) with the Sox.

Lowell is getting up there in age, so when we think of years of a contract, we have to take that into consideration. Either he gets more dollars and a shorter contract, or less dollars and a slightly longer contract. His value to the Red Sox is huge - the Sox will have a corner infield hole next season without him, and looking at the FA market, filling that hole would have to be via trade. There are few good corner infielders out there - and the couple that are (Kotchman and Miggy Cabrera) would cost an arm and leg in a trade. And the Sox will not trade Buchholz or Ellsbury, so those trading pawns are off limits and one or both would have to be included for Miggy.

So that leaves dollars available - thus a FA would have to be signed. So that means the SOx would have to seem interested in Lowell a lot - which will slightly drive up his price. The Sox went out and signed Drew at $14M/yr last year - so I would think that would be a starting point. Drew is younger than Lowell and has a slightly better offensive track record, but is more injury prone. Lowell and Drew are GG caliber players at their positions.

Bottom Line:
I see Lowell asking for $14M and settling for a $12.5M/yr 3 year deal with the Sox.

I hope I am right.

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