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Lowell back in Boston

by Matt Smith

Details: Mike Lowell agrees to stay with the Red Sox, signing a 3 year, $37.5m deal.

Optimist’s argument: Why break up a winning combination? Lowell played a major part in the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2007, as the MVP award shows. The Red Sox nation wanted him to stay and the player made it clear that his heart was in Boston. Factor in his overall contribution in 2007, including career highs in batting average and RBIs as well as other categories, and they would have been mad to let him go.

Pessimist’s argument: 2007 was a great year for Lowell, but when a player has his best season of his career at thirty-three years old, you’re a fool if you think he’s going to keep that level of performance up. Think back only two years ago and this guy was basically a throw-in to the Beckett deal following a dreadful 2005 campaign. If he returns to anywhere close to that .236/.298/.360, then his $12.5m a year salary isn’t going to look quite the bargain that some people are claiming it is. Oh, and don’t forget that one of the other career highs he set in 2007 was for errors. Lowell timed his career year perfectly for himself, but the only way is down and he could plummet quickly.

Voice of reason: Have to side with the optimist here. Lowell isn’t going to repeat his 2007 season, but his 2005 disaster was similarly out of line with his career levels. His career average is .280/.344/.468 with 23 homers, which is very close to his 2006 season and that’s about what you should expect from him (accompanied by some solid and occasionally spectacular defence at third base). What really makes this a good deal for Boston is that they were able to limit it to three years, despite apparent interest from other teams who were prepared to stretch to a fourth year. Four years would be a big commitment for a thirty-three year old and by holding firm on their three-year offer, the Red Sox have reduced the risk of him becoming a financial burden if he doesn’t age gracefully. Mike Lowell has clearly conceded a bit of ground to make this happen, but that’s his prerogative and it makes a welcome change from the many other examples when a player chases the top dollar and then finds that money isn’t everything, particularly when you’re going to earn a healthy sum in any case. It looks like a great deal for both sides.

Wider impact rating: 7. Taking A-Rod out of the equation, there’s really not a lot else out there on the third base free agent market. The Dodgers were very interested in signing Lowell, so they may have to turn their attentions to putting together a package of their top prospects for his former Florida team mate Miguel Cabrera. As for the Red Sox, they may have had to consider switching Youkillis to third and shopping for a first base man if Lowell had walked away. This makes their off-season a little less complicated.

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