As a little followup to the discussion I put up last week about the Red Sox corner infield situation, I was looking around NESN and noticed this little quote from Tito's latest NESN mailbag (this has been up for a couple of days but I only just noticed it today):
We can still use Mike Lowell's bat, now that he is not going to Texas. Is there any reason why Lowell couldn't switch to first base, outfield or designated hitter, since third base seems to be beyond his post-hip surgery ability?
--Jon Jepson, Sacramento, Calif.
The first thing we need to do is let Mikey have his thumb surgery. He should be ready right about the time we get to spring training. He could definitely be a candidate to do some DHing and also maybe even play a little first base. We will make those decisions as we move forward this spring. We will try and get every player ready for the 2010 season and then see where everyone fits.
Now the first thing that struck me about this is that Francona doesn't say anything about even hoping that Lowell will be recovered enough in the hip to be capable of playing third base, which seems interesting because statements Lowell has been making make it sound like he thinks he'll be mobile enough to handle it again.
This would leave the Sox with a few options for him, which I'll discuss after the jump
First of all, the one's Francona discusses:
1. Our new first baseman! Now as appealing as it might seem to have his bat in the lineup and to think that he'd be great defensively at first, this seems like an odd notion to suggest for a team like the Sox for a few reasons; his bat has always been solid for the Sox as a third baseman, but is really not very impressive for a first baseman. Admittedly better than Kotchman's at the position, but while Kotchman is an excellent defender at first, Lowell is completely unproven, having never logged an inning in the position in his lengthy MLB career. It's always seemed to me that a great part of his defense is his arm, which is lost at first. In addition it seems to me that at a position where he needs to be able to reach well for the ball without leaving the bag, hip mobility is every bit as important as at third base (if he can't swivel or stretch well, we better have some pretty incredible throws to first). Basically, this seems like it would go counter to everything Theo has worked towards this season (great pitching and defense, even if it is at the cost of a little offense).
2. DH Platoon/ bench utility-less player Many people have suggested using him as half of a $24 million platoon at the DH position, hitting against lefties. His bat is pretty good against lefties- career .867 OPS, though honestly the upgrade over Ortiz just doesn't seem worth the roster spot alone here. I'd rather see an offenseless bench player who could defend a couple of positions. On days he wasn't DHing, he could presumably be used at a pinch hitter, but that would be very little use, and it really isn't Tito's style to do a lot of pinch hitting.
3. Trade him now that the Texas offer has fallen through, the Red Sox can keep hoping that they'll be willing to do the trade later on, assuming Lowell is recovered by ST. More likely, they'll fill their gap in the meantime with another player and we'll be stuck with nowhere for him to go. It's always possible that someone else might be willing to pick up a bit of his contract later, though the Sox would get pretty much nothing in return. This is probably what the Sox are hoping for, especially with the comments about him playing first to add some value to him. Whether they'll get it remains to be seen.
4. Release which seems to be an increasingly likely option- seeing him go the way of Lugo and Smoltz. It would be sad to see someone who has contributed so much to the club get released, but it looks to me more and more like this will happen.