Normally, JOAT likes to look at players who were dealt three or more times. But Mike Lowell, in honor of his participation in two blockbuster trades, rumors for the better part of a year, and impending retirement, gets the wanderer treatment today.
The New York Yankees drafted Lowell in the 20th round of the 1995 draft, and he quickly climbed the prospect lists, crushing a combined 56 home runs in 1997-1998. But with Scott Brosius manning third base, the Yankees viewed Lowell as surplus and dealt him to Florida on February 1, 1999 for three pitching prospects: Todd Noel, Mark Johnson and Ed Yarnall.
The deal turned out to be a massive win for the Marlins. The three pitching prospects amounted to very little. Brosius, meanwhile, posted a 121 OPS+ in 1998 and managed a combined mark of 86 in 1999-2001 before retiring.
Lowell beat cancer in the spring of 1999 and came back to post an OPS+ of 90 that season before achieving stardom in 2000. From 2000-2004, his age 26-30 seasons, Lowell had an OPS+ of 117 with tremendous defense at third base. In 2003, Lowell had an OPS+ of 128 for the World Series-winning Marlins, hitting 32 home runs and finishing 11th in MVP voting.
But in 2005, Lowell, now 31, appeared to lose his ability to hit. His season line of .236/.298/.360 was good for an OPS+ of just 77, though he did win a Gold Glove. Eager to shed his salary, the Marlins worked out a deal with the Red Sox. On November 24, 2005, Florida traded Lowell, Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota to the Boston Red Sox for Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.
Once again, the team that acquired Lowell turned out to be a big winner, though this trade wasn't one-sided. Florida, after all, received a no-hitter from Anibal Sanchez, and Ramirez has blossomed into one of the game's best shortstops.
Beckett, the centerpiece of the deal, performed as expected, but Lowell's resurgence surprised the baseball world. His 2006-2009 in Boston included three seasons of above-average offense and strong, though regressing defense. His 2007, naturally, stands out from the pack.
That year, Lowell's OPS+ was 124. His age-33 season included 120 RBI, a fifth-place showing the the regular-season MVP voting, and a World Series MVP trophy. And Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in the American League. (That may be a paraphrase.)
Lowell gradually broke down, however, with his troublesome hip merely one of many injuries. This past winter, the Red Sox made a deal to send him to Texas for catching prospect Max Ramirez, because Theo Epstein loves grabbing decent prospects when their value is artificially low. The deal was called off, however, when Lowell needed surgery on his right thumb.
Barring a late comeback by Boston, Lowell's career will end when the regular season does. With nine seasons of 103 OPS+ or better, a strong glove for most of his career, and the postseason heroics, it is hard to believe that two teams sold low on Lowell. Stranger still, perhaps, is that Lowell played for three organizations – the Red Sox, the Marlins, and the Yankees – and made postseason appearances with everyone but New York.