|Source: Sox trade of Lowell to Rangers ‘close’||12.10.09 at 4:16 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The late-night scene outside Champions at the Indianapolis Marriott early Thursday morning was the epitome of the Winter Meetings.
There were Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Mike Lowell, and all of their helpers. Then along came a smattering of members of the Red Sox front office. And, finally, Jon Daniels, the general manager of Texas arrived at the scene after hosting his Sox counterpart, Theo Epstein, in the Rangers general manager’s hotel suite. The get-togethers were hardly planned, instead offering a healthy dose of serendipity.
All of the parties involved represented pieces of what was the most notable Red Sox news of the meetings as they wound down toward their conclusion.
According to a source, the Red Sox and Rangers were “close” to completing a deal that would send Lowell to Texas in exchange for minor league catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez, with the Sox scheduled to pay the majority of Lowell’s $12 million salary for 2010. (FoxSports.com was reporting that the figure was $9 million.)
It was a deal, however, that another source said could “blow up,” with both teams positioned to go their separate ways if the final elements aren’t agreed upon.
The first obstacle that remained in place was getting approval from Red Sox ownership regarding the payment of the money that would go toward making up a good chunk of what was left on Lowell’s three-year, $37.5 million contract. (Major League Baseball also would have to approve the deal since more than $1 million would exchange hands.)
Another issue the teams had to clarify was the health of Lowell, in particular his surgically repaired right hip. As of early Thursday morning the teams hadn’t gotten to the point of exchanging physicals for the potential trade’s participants.
As for why each team would do the deal, here are some reasons:
– The Rangers would be looking at Lowell to serve primarily as a first baseman and designated hitter, although he has only played four professional games at first (coming in Triple A in 1999).
– For the Sox, Ramirez represents a young power bat, although his ability to catch has come into question by some. The 25-year-old native of Venezuela played in 17 major league games in 2009, 13 of which he caught, three at first, and DH for one. Ramirez hit .217 with a pair of home runs in his first big league stint. He currently is in the Venezuelan Winter League to get some playing time after missing a hearty chunk of the year with wrist injuries. He is hitting .236/.355/.461/.815 in Venezuela and is tied for the league lead in homers with 11.
Ramirez has been traded twice, both coming in deals that were straight-up for major league players despite the fact he was just in Single A. In 2006, the 5-foot-11 slugger was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland for Bob Wickman, and a year later he was dealt from the Indians to Texas in exchange for Kenny Lofton.
– The trade of Lowell would open a spot for free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, in whom sources suggest the Red Sox have strong interest. It was interesting to note the analysis of Beltre’s agent, Scott Boras, regarding his client’s abilities. Here are Boras’ thoughts:
(On Beltre’s offensive production) “We did a study of Beltre’s road numbers compared to a very good hitter like, say, Jason Bay. Obviously, Beltre had some nicks this year with his collarbone, but we looked at his ’06-’08 numbers on the road and compared them to Bay’s ’07-’09 performance offensively on the road and we’ve come up with the fact that Adrian had more RBIs, he had a few less home runs, his batting average was 25 points higher and his OPS was about the same. And I’m not including anything about Beltre’s 48-home run season. Just to put it in perspective the type of offensive player Adrian Beltre is outside of Seattle. You can really see he compares favorably a very coveted, talented free agent player today. Then you add in the fact I don’t think anybody in baseball will not tell you that Adrian Beltre is far and above the best defensive third baseman.”
(On how Mike Lowell’s presence on the Red Sox will affect the team’s interest in Beltre) ”When you’re talking about teams and players who have played well, and they’re under contract, the answer to that is that the team has flexibility. Historically when you have a player under contract you can go to a team at the start of the season, or now, and say, ‘Well absorb some of the contract if you take the player.’ Or you can just keep the player and have him serve a function on the team that may not be in the starting role and have the player be traded in spring training or have the player as the season opens up when injuries occur. Particularly with clubs with one year to go on the contract, major market teams, the idea of it is that the flexibility of those decisions usually don’t preempt teams from making those decisions. The fact that the player still has something to contribute and perform well makes that process easier.”
– It should also be noted that if the Red Sox don’t deem Beltre worth the asking price (one source suggested he was looking for five years and $50 million), the Sox could amp up their interest for Mark DeRosa, in whom the team has previously expressed interest.
Earlier in the evening the Red Sox also talked to the Cubs regarding a possible deal that would send Lowell to Chicago in exchange for outfielder Milton Bradley. Ironically, both players are represented by the Levinsons.
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