October 9, 2008

Winter Targets: Mike Lowell

In my last post, I discussed two middle infielders who I'd like to see the Twins pursue. The middle infield is one of the 3 key areas (in no particular order) of need that the Twins should address before the 2009 season. The second key area of concern in my opinion is third base. And the third in my mind is the bullpen. But today, we'll focus on third base.

Since Corey Koskie left after the 2004 season, a huge hole at third base has yet to be filled. Koskie was a consistent run producer year in and year out and was great defensively. The Twins have brought in players through free agency such as Tony Batista and Mike Lamb who have failed miserably (neither finishing their contract before being released). The Twins have known that third base has been a position of need for a few years, however they've failed to adequately fill that position.

Free agency definitely has not been kind to the Twins in the last few years, and although I see a few players worth looking at on the market, I see the Twins likely looking at trading for a third baseman before hitting the market. I will look into a couple free agent possibilities later, but for today and tomorrow, I will give two trade options that I think are realistic.

Mike Lowell's time in Boston may be coming to an end. Despite signing a 3-year deal with the club last season, the Red Sox are likely to look at trading Lowell this off-season and replace him with Kevin Youkilis at third base. You may be wondering what I'm talking about, moving Youkilis - one of the best defensive first basemen in all of baseball - to a new position? The way I see it happening is that the Red Sox will likely become one of the top 2-3 clubs bidding for Mark Teixeira this off-season. Teixeira plays first base and I don't see any logical reasoning for trying to move the younger, better Youkilis instead of Lowell. So yes, the way I see the Twins acquiring Lowell is if the Red Sox acquire Teixeira (or another first baseman for that matter).

The Red Sox are pretty sound in every department, which makes a trade with them a little hard to predict. But since every team needs pitching I think it's a fair bet that they could ask for a pitcher in return. I don't think that trading any current pitcher on the roster is a fair deal, unless it's Boof Bonser, so I think it could be done with a solid pitching prospect.

A name that comes up in my mind is Cole Devries. In my honest opinion, Devries is one of the most underrated Twins pitching prospects in the system. I think does possess some upside and could be a good pickup for the Red Sox. Devries has had success in both stops of his professional career after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in August of 2006.

Team/Year          W    L    ERA    G    GS      IP    SO   BB   WHIP
Beloit 2007        9    5   3.41   27    25   148.0   108   36   1.33
Ft. Myers 2008    10    9   2.93   24    23   135.1   105   38   1.30

Being a Minnesota native, the Twins probably would like to keep Devries, however he doesn't currently figure into their long-term plans, mainly because of the pitchers currently ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. The Red Sox are pretty strong in starting pitching throughout their system as well, but adding a successful pitcher who just gets it done like Devries is definitely something that any ballclub needs.

Some may think that Devries won't get us Lowell. It's tough to estimate how other clubs (or even our own club) views a certain prospect, so that may or may not be true. However if the Red Sox do infact sign Mark Teixeira, they'll have a lot of urgency to find Lowell a new team and trying to dump his salary. Since the Twins aren't really sending all that much to the Red Sox, it can be assumed that the Twins would take on all of Lowell's remaining $24 million on his contract, which ends after the 2010 season. Thus Devries could be a good pickup for them as their moving a player they need to move and also dumping his salary.

Lowell has resurrected his career with the Red Sox after having a terrible final season with the Marlins in 2005. He has consistently driven in nearly 100 runs and hit around 20-25 home runs per season, which would be great for the Twins to add a proven run producer in a position that hasn't seen one in a while.

Lowell has good discipline and could give the Twins a viable option to either bat between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (although that's unlikely) or bat directly behind Morneau. He hits left-handed pitching better than right, which is something that the Twins have been looking at for a few years. He also is a good defensive third baseman, which should help the Twins who finished tied for 7th for most errors in the league last season, with 108. Something this team has prided itself on is it's solid defense, so having a gold glover at third base will help that cause.

Lowell hasn't really been discussed lately as a possible third base candidate for the Twins, probably because it requires the Red Sox to sign probably the top player on the free agent market for it to happen. The Red Sox may be looking to make a splash, and we all know that they have the money to do so. Could it cost more than Devries? Probably. But I think he's a good starting point and I really don't think the Red Sox would require much more than him, but perhaps another mid-level prospect could be added to the deal.

I guess we'll have to see what happens. But Lowell certainly does intrigue me.