Lowell has no future with Red Sox

BY Ken Rosenthal • December 20, 2009

Prediction: Mike Lowell will never play another game for the Red Sox.

If the relationship between the player and team is not beyond repair, it's pretty close.

The Red Sox obviously do not want Lowell playing third base for them next season. In fact, they have not wanted Lowell from roughly the time he underwent surgery on his right hip after the 2008 season.

The evidence:

- The Red Sox's attempt to sign free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira last offseason, which would have resulted in Kevin Youkilis moving to third and Lowell likely getting traded one year after he signed a three-year, $37.5 million free-agent contract with the team.

- The Red Sox's trades for catcher Victor Martinez and first baseman Casey Kotchman last July 31, which increased Youkilis' playing time at third and reduced Lowell's shortly after Lowell came off the disabled list with a right hip strain.

- The Red Sox's willingness to pay $9 million of Lowell's $12 million salary in their proposed trade with the Rangers – a trade that is now off because Lowell will require thumb surgery and miss 6 to 8 weeks.

Lowell, who turns 36 on Feb. 24, has no recourse; he was a good soldier and effective hitter when healthy last season, and is not the type to demand a trade. Still, few players are comfortable staying with teams that do not want them. And the Red Sox keep looking for more help.

While the Sox currently would open the season with Kotchman and Youkilis at the infield corners, they still could sign free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre or trade for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Both moves – the Gonzalez one, in particular – are unlikely. But what are the odds that the Sox want to keep Lowell as a $12 million bench player? He probably will be no more than that in 2010 due to his hip problem and possibly his thumb issue as well.

Releasing Lowell would be too extreme; he is popular in Boston and still productive offensively, particularly at Fenway Park. But the Sox eventually will complete the kind of deal they tried to make with the Rangers, paying most of Lowell's salary to make him disappear.

The Rangers could even revive their interest in spring training if Lowell shows he is healthy.

Basically, this is Julio Lugo all over again – the Sox assumed nearly all of the $13 million remaining on Lugo's contract when they traded him to the Cardinals for outfielder Chris Duncan last July.

The difference is, Lowell thrived in Boston and Lugo did not. The Red Sox signed Lowell to his current deal after he drove in 120 runs for their World Series championship club in 2007. Lowell's hip surgery after the '08 season obviously changed the team's perspective. But this has gone on for too long.

At some point, for the sake of both parties, the Red Sox need to trade Mike Lowell.