Mike Lowell Rumors

This Date In Transactions History: Marlins Fire Sale

Two weeks ago, the Marlins agreed to send basically every player making decent money on their roster to the Blue Jays for a package of prospects. The 12-player blockbuster became official a week ago, leaving Miami with just three players scheduled to make $2MM+ in 2013. Ricky Nolasco ($11.5MM) and Yunel Escobar ($5MM) could both still be moved before the end of the winter as well.

This isn't the first time the Marlins have torn things down and rebuilt from scratch, of course. They did it immediately following their 1997 World Series win, then again a few years after bringing home the 2003 World Championship. On this date in 2005, the team officially swung a pair of trades sending three of their highest paid players elsewhere.

Trade #1: Boston Red Sox
Josh Beckett, then just 25, was coming off a 3.38 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 178 2/3 innings for Florida. He earned $2.4MM in 2005 and was due a significant raise in his second trip through arbitration, plus the team was unlikely to re-sign him long-term when he hit free agency after 2007.

Beckett had significant trade value, so the Marlins took advantage by attaching then-31-year-old Mike Lowell to him in talks. If a team wanted Beckett, they had to take Lowell as well. The third baseman slipped to .236/.298/.360 with eight homers in 558 plate appearances that year, but more importantly he was scheduled to earn $18MM total from 2006-2007.

Few teams could meet Florida's demand for a young shortstop, but the Red Sox were one of them. The two sides worked out a seven-player trade that sent Beckett, Lowell, and Guillermo Mota to Boston in exchange for prospects Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado. The Marlins saved all $18MM owed to Lowell in addition to second- and third-year arbitration salaries for Beckett and a third-year arbitration salary for Mota. The trade worked out well for both teams as Beckett and Lowell helped the Red Sox to the 2007 World Championship while Ramirez developed into an MVP candidate and Sanchez became a rock solid innings-eater for the Marlins.

Trade #2: New York Mets
During the 2004-2005 offseason, Florida landed the top free agent slugger by signing Carlos Delgado to a four-year, $52MM contract with a fifth-year vesting option. The then-33-year-old hit .301/.399/.582 with 33 homers in the first year of the contract, good enough to earn him a sixth-place finish in the MVP voting. However, like the contracts of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, Delgado's deal with the Marlins was heavily backloaded. He earned just $4MM in 2005, then his salary was scheduled to jump to $13.5MM in 2006, $14.5MM in 2007, $16MM in 2008, and potentially $12MM in 2009 if the option vested ($4MM buyout).

Rather than pay him that huge salary over the next three years, the Marlins traded Delgado to the Mets for three minor leaguers: Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Jacobs, and Grant Psomas. The Mets also received $7MM from Florida in the trade, but it was a drop in the bucket compared to the $48MM left on the contract. Delgado hit .265/.349/.505 with 100 homers during his first three years with New York, which was enough for the team to exercise his option even though it didn't vest. Jacobs had three decent years with the Marlins while Petit and Psomas flamed out, but the real get for the club was the $41MM in payroll savings. Combined with the Red Sox swap, the Marlins shed more than $59MM in contract obligations with these two moves seven years ago today.

Managerial Notes: Blue Jays, Marlins, Rockies

Three teams are seeking managers now that the Marlins have officially dismissed Ozzie Guillen. Here’s the latest with the most recent updates up top…

  • Mike Redmond will interview with the Marlins for their managerial opening tonight, Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports (on Twitter). Redmond and Bryan Price are in the running for the job, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reported last night. Redmond, a minor league manager for the Blue Jays, appears to be an early favorite for the position, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes.
  • Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr hasn't been contacted by the Blue Jays about their vacancy, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). The Blue Jays are still in information gathering mode, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). Sandy Alomar Jr.Tim Wallach and DeMarlo Hale are among the names in play.
  • The role of the manager has changed with the increased use of social media, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes. Outspoken skippers like Guillen and Bobby Valentine risk alienating their players in today’s media environment.
  • Jason Giambi blew the Rockies away in his interview for the team’s managerial opening, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. The veteran power hitter left no doubt about his preparation and desire to get the job. Wallach, Alomar, Mike Gallego and Brad Ausmus are among the external candidates the Rockies are expected to contact, according to Renck.
  • President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said the Marlins will consider candidates without previous experience managing at the MLB level, Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald reports. Valentine is not a candidate and former Marlins Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine have indicated they aren't seeking MLB managing jobs.

Managerial Links: Tracy, Guillen, Lowell, Francona

The regular season ended two days ago, and we've already had one manager — Bobby Valentine — get fired.  Rumors surrounding the job security of other big league skippers continue to circulate, so we'll round them up here throughout the day with the latest up top…

  • The Rockies will not have a decision on Jim Tracy's future until Monday, report Troy Renck of The Denver Post (Twitter links). The parties will remain in contact, and the big issue is finding a comfort level in all aspects moving forward.
  • Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is in "real jeopardy of losing his job," reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Owner Jeff Loria is always able to change course.
  • “No, I haven’t been contacted," said Mike Lowell when asked if he had been contacted by theMarlins about their manager's position during a recent appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show (audio here). “It would be a very interesting scenario, but I don’t know if this is the time in my life right now.”
  • During an ESPN broadcast last night, Terry Francona said that his only two options right now are to manage the Indians or return to the network for another season according to Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 (on Twitter). Francona interviewed for the Cleveland opening this week.

AL East Links: Lowell, Guerrero, Jeter

This round of Monday afternoon links includes updates on one player who is leaving the AL East, one who is just arriving in it and one who has played his entire career there…

American League Free Agent Arbitration Offers

10 American League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll group them in this post.  For a fantastic customizable chart with all 65 Type A/B free agents and their decisions in real-time, click here.

Jack Of All Trades: Mike Lowell

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.

Mike Lowell To Retire After The Season

We've heard conflicting reports about the future of Red Sox first/third baseman Mike Lowell all season long, but the former Marlin put it all to rest today when he announced that he will indeed retire after the season. John Tomase of The Boston Herald provides the following…

“I’m retiring,” Lowell said. “I just don’t want to make it a song and dance because I don’t think that’s necessary, but if someone needs something official, yeah, I’m going to retire. This is going to be my last year.”

Lowell, 36, said that he still believes he can still play and platoon somewhere, but he doesn't enjoy it and is not willing to make the transition. He also indicated that staying around to compile numbers was never in his plans. 

Plagued by hip issues over the last several years, Lowell has hit just .231/.297/.357 in 202 plate appearances this year, and lately he's lost playing time to younger players. A career .279/.341/.464 hitter, Lowell will retire as the Marlins' all-time leader in doubles (241), RBI (578), total bases (1,641), and extra base hits (387). According to Baseball-Reference.com, he's earned more than $76MM in his career. 

Rangers Not Likely To Acquire Mike Lowell

5:18pm: Sullivan now hears from the Rangers that they aren't going to acquire Lowell.

4:38pm: The Rangers and Red Sox are discussing Mike Lowell again, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. The Rangers, who are also discussing Jeff Francoeur with the Mets, are "pushing hard" to acquire a right-handed bat by tonight, according to Sullivan, who says Lowell appears to be the Rangers' main target.

The Red Sox placed Lowell on waivers earlier in the month and he presumably cleared. If he had been claimed and the Red Sox had pulled him back, no trade would be possible at this point. About $2.2MM of Lowell's $12MM salary remains. That figure has been an obstacle all season, but the Rangers showed that they have some money to spend when they claimed Manny Ramirez.

As WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports, the Red Sox are not giving up, despite the fact that they traded Manny Delcarmen to the Rockies. Lowell hasn't hit much this season (.234/.309/.373 line), so perhaps the Red Sox believe they have an equally good chance of heating up and re-entering the playoff picture without him. Lowell has a career .841 OPS against lefties, which presumably contributes to the Rangers' interest.

Lowell Still Likely To Retire After Season

Boston infielder Mike Lowell told reporters that he's still likely to retire after this season, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.  Lowell first suggested that 2010 would be his final season back in April.

"I'm pretty much set in knowing what I'm going to do after this year," the four-time All-Star said.  "It will be fun.  It will be fun enjoying my kids."

Injuries caused Lowell to play just 47 games this season in which he hit .226/.305/.380 with four homers.  That slash line is a far cry from his career posting of .279/.342/.465 across 13 big league seasons.

The 36-year-old has been involved in trade rumors since the last quarter of 2009 when he was nearly sent to Texas for catcher Max Ramirez.  However, a torn radial collateral ligament in Lowell's right thumb caused the Rangers to get cold feet and back out of the swap.  There's still a possibility the veteran could finish the year elsewhere as he cleared waivers in early August.

Lowell has earned roughly $76.5MM in his career thanks in large part to the three-year, $37.5MM contract he signed with Boston in November of 2007.

Odds & Ends: Lee, Brewers, Repko, Delgado

Saturday night linkage..