No, Mike Lowell is not currently employed by the Red Sox front office. But his tenure with the Red Sox from 2006-2010 could provide some insight into their pursuits of Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.
Lowell first came to the Red Sox as a throw in. Besides giving up a package of prospects that included Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, taking on Lowell’s remaining two years and $18 million was a necessary cost in acquiring then budding ace Josh Beckett. Considering Lowell was coming off the worst season of his career in which he hit .236/.298/.360/.658 with only eight home runs and 58 RBI, this was a very expensive risk. The club even acquired the immortal Hee-Seop Choi as insurance in case Lowell’s 2005 was a sign of things to come.
Lowell would prove the critics wrong, playing 307 games and hitting .305/.359/.488/.847 with 40 home runs and 200 RBI in 2006-2007. His swing was tailor-made for Fenway, he became known as a “doubles machine” (84 in those two seasons), and it all culminated with a World Series MVP.
In 2012, Shane Victorino had the worst season of his career (.255/.321/.383/.704 with eleven homers and 55 RBI’s). Those numbers are actually better than what Lowell put up in 05. Prior to that, Victorino was a dynamic player who’s capable of double digit homers and triples, 25+ doubles, 20+ steals. He’s only 32, the same age Lowell was in his first season with the Red Sox. Unlike Lowell, he’s already proven he can handle a big market. Now with his nagging hand injury behind him, as well as the stress of pending free agency, Victorino can get back to being the dynamic player he was with the Phillies. Here’s hoping Red Sox fans will be saying “Cody Who?” after 2013.
After this feel-good story, why such a long wait for Napoli? Well…
After he became a free agent after the 2007 season, Lowell would eventually re-sign with the Red Sox for three years $37.5 million. In the 2008 season, Lowell would start to suffer hip ailments. He tried playing through the pain, playing in 113 games putting up a .274/.338/.461/.798 with 17 homers and 73 RBI’s. But the pain would be too overwhelming. The Red Sox would shut Lowell down in the postseason where they would eventually lose to the Rays in seven games in the ALCS. He had a similar season in 2009, playing 119 games with a .290/.337/.474/.811 with 17 homers and 75 RBI’s. Lowell would play a reduced role in his final season in 2010, playing 73 games (only four at third base) with a .239/.307/.367/.674 line with five homers and 26 RBI before calling it a career.
The original deal with Napoli was a similar one to what Lowell got in the 07-08 offseason. When concerns over his hip came up in the results of his physical, the club sighted a recent player with a similar problem. They eventually would agree to a new deal for only one season. Wise move by the Red Sox in case Napoli’s hip condition doesn’t improve. Wise move by Napoli as well considering he would’ve gotten even less going back on the market as damaged goods.