''Everybody in the game would love to have him," said a major league executive, who added that most teams stayed away from Beckett because they were unwilling to take on Lowell's salary. "He's got a plus fastball, a plus breaking ball, and a plus changeup, and he comes right at you. He's a horse."
..."I'll bet you that Lowell has a hell of a year," said a major league scout who has tracked both Lowell and Beckett since they broke into the big leagues. ''He got down on himself last year, but he's a great young man. In that park, he's going to hit a lot of balls off that Wall and over that Wall."
As the Yankees find themselves coming up short in the free agent market, the Mets rolled out the red carpet for Billy Wagner yesterday and the Red Sox and Marlins were on the verge of closing a deal that would send erstwhile Yankee Mike Lowell, and power-pitcher Josh Beckett to Boston for three minor league players, including Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. Lowell makes a lot of money and had a terrible season last year, but he's also solid defender and maybe, just maybe, he will rebound hitting at Fenway Park. I've always been fond of the guy because of his Yankee roots and his steady demeanor. I saw him walk into Shea Stadium a few years ago, and in person, he's got the George Clooney vibe down pat.
Beckett still has two years before he becomes a free agent and is nothing short of a stud. He has shown flashes of greatness--as we Yankee fans remember all too well--but seven trips to the DL in the past four years has prevented him from staying on the field never mind becoming an elite pitcher. The potential is clearly there: I can easily see Beckett emerge as one the American League's best starters. His health has to be a concern, but he's not making an obscene amount of money and when he's right, Beckett will be handful for the rest of the league to deal with.
So Boston has a new ace. I also take it that Bill Mueller is out of the picture. At this point I'd much rather have Mueller than Lowell. Mike's career took a big plunge in 2005, and I don't believe it's a fluke. Lowell came into 2005 a .277 career hitter. Given his 500 at bats, the 95% confidence interval for Mike's expected hits was 119 to 158. Mike banged out just 118 hits in 2005. Rather than just being bad luck, it looks like Lowell decline was real.
...Long term, this is a good deal for the Marlins. Beckett helps the Red Sox for the next few years (barring injury), but I'm afraid Lowell is going to prove to be useless. The Red Sox seem to be taking the path of winning now rather than rebuilding from within. Maybe that was the heart of the difference between Theo and Lucchino.
I asked Jim Callis of Baseball America last night for his perspective on the trade. Jim follows the Red Sox closely and is an expert when it comes to evaluating young players. "Ramirez and Sanchez are two of Boston's four best prospects, along with Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester. There probably wasn't another team out there willing to give up a shortstop prospect and a starting pitching prospect combo as good as Ramirez and Sanchez."
...Despite parting with two of its best prospects, Jim thinks the trade is a good one for Boston. He has heard that Jesus Delgado might be the third minor leaguer in the deal. "Delgado is an interesting guy. He had Tommy John surgery and missed 2002-03. Works at 95 and hit 97-98 last year out of the 'pen in low-A. Good curve at times, not much of a changeup yet. Promising arm but far away. Not a bad third player if he's the guy."
...I believe more teams should be making these types of trades. Every team can't make a legitimate run at the World Series. Some need to retool for the future. If nothing else, transactions like this allow for lots of discussion and analysis. As for me, I think the Red Sox-Marlins trade can be summarized as follows: a Beckett and Lowell in hand beats three players in the bushes.
It is cold and rainy in New York, but there's a blister in the sun up in Boston. It's been a strange off-season thus far for Red Sox fans, but perhaps this will give them something to be thankful for come Turkey Day.