Thoughts about the baseball world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Marlins' Beckett, Lowell to Boston for 3 Minor Leaguers

Marlin Firesale #3

After winning the World Series in 1997, the Marlins immediately went and got rid of some of their best players, and key pieces to their championship team. Gone were Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, and Kevin Brown, two solid starters and undeniably their ace pitcher. After winning the World Series again in 2003, the Marlins immediately went off and traded away Derrek Lee, arguably the core of their lineup and the primary run driver, and let catcher Ivan Rodriguez go (although he, admittedly, would probably have been overpriced). Come 2005, the next firehouse sale is on hand again, and it starts with the purging of any high-salary player, apparently at any cost.

The first to go is Mike Lowell, who has two more years to go at $9 million a year. 2005 was utterly abysmal for Lowell, who went from being a fairly solid power-hitter with decent OBP to a horrible .236-.298-.360 AVG-OBP-SLG.

Their trade then? Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett to the Boston Red Sox, for three minor leaguers: shortstop Hanley Ramirez, and pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado.

They must be horribly desperate to get rid of Lowell, because in this trade, they have practically given away Josh Beckett to get rid of Lowell's contract. Until Dontrelle Willis emerged this year, Josh Beckett was undeniably the ace of the staff. Though oft-injured (he's never really come close to a 200-inning season), there's no denying that Beckett definitely has the stuff when he's on, and there is no way that the Marlins could find a player of the same caliber on the market anywhere.

In return, they get three minor leaguers, none of which have any major league experience. Hanley Ramirez was one of Boston's top prospects, but even at AAA, seems about average offensively - he definitely doesn't seem like a guy who could emerge as a superstar shortstop. Their potential aside, the striking point here is that none of the players have major league experience. For a veteran third baseman and ace starter, the Marlins have not received anyone that they can depend on for the upcoming season, nor have they even received a young and rising star who is a known commodity. Neither Anibal Sanchez nor Jesus Delgado look like they can be plugged in for Beckett's spot in the rotation (which already had a hole following the imminent departure of A.J. Burnett). No one has any idea how Ramirez will fare at the major-league level, and given his minor league numbers (.271-.335-.385 in 465 AB
s for all of 2005 in AA), he appears to be nothing more than middling offensively. He has just as much chance to be a complete bust as he does to be a serviceable shorstop (or third baseman).

The Marlins, meanwhile, give up a heck of a lot just to get rid of Lowell's contract. Beckett was a dominant pitcher when healthy, and his innings have been steadily increasing every year (although, admittedly again, he's been injured every year and still has not reached 200 innings ever), and he was still under contract for several more years (his arbitration-eligible years). Cost-wise, this is really a wash - yes, Lowell was overpaid at $9 million a year, but Beckett is due only $4-5 million this year. Combined, they're making $13-14 million a year. To replicate a serviceable (and potentially good) veteran third baseman and an ace starter for that price is absolutely impossible - A.J. Burnett, who is inferior to Beckett, will likely garner that much in free agency just for himself. And don't forget that, in all the atrocity of 2005, Lowell has really only slipped up a single year - in 2004 and prior to that, he had been a fairly solid power hitter, with decent all-around OBP and SLG (much like Paul Konerko was, before having 1 abymsal year and then coming back as a powerhouse hitter the next). If Lowell can find his groove again and return to the form he was just two seasons ago, he could have been worht that $9 million (or at least close to it), and having Beckett for $5 million is an absurd steal.

So what are the implications on Boston? They're getting a starter who should become their #1, who is really their answer for losing Pedro Martinez. Although their rotatin was decent last year, no one else on the Red Sox rotation last year was near ace-quality material (even Schilling, I daresay, is on the downside of his career), and so this year's rotation should be set, with Beckett, Curt Schilling, Matt Clement, Broson Arroyo, and Tim Wakefield. David Wells, who reportedly asked to be traded, and the oft-injured Wade Miller, could/would be left out. The introduction of Lowell also pushes out former regulars Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar (whose place will probably be taken by Kevin Youkilis) - unfortunate because they were both serviceable players who were playing for cheap (Mueller was $2.5 million, Millar was $3.5 million). In truth, this was not a trade that the Red Sox needed - they already had a rotation of 5 set up, and their 3B and 1B positions were filled by decent guys - but from the standpoint of acquiring quality players, especially in Beckett, without the need to give up any starting-caliber or major-league-level players, is a no-brainer.

Josh Beckett Stats
Mike Lowell Stats
Hanley Ramirez Stats


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