Mike Lowell Situation Unsettling to Watch

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After returning from his rehab stint in Pawtucket at the end of last week, Mike Lowell was not activated and added to the Sox active roster. The reasoning was obvious: the Sox were going to try hard to trade the veteran 3rd and 1st baseman. Then Saturday’s non-waiver trade deadline came and went and Lowell was still sitting in limbo, unsure of his future. As I write this post on Monday morning, Lowell has still not been activated and it appears he has had multiple conversations with the Sox front office about his future. What can these conversations be about you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, but let me take a stab at it.

First, let me state the obvious. The conversations between Theo Epstein and Mike Lowell involve his role with the club going forward. Duh. The part where it gets a little less obvious, is when thinking about what that role actually is going to be. Lowell has the leadership characteristics to be a manager or coach, but he believes he can still significantly contribute to a team on the field. My educated guess is that Theo is talking to Mike about the possibilities of being passed through waivers in an effort to trade him and his large salary. At this point, for both Mike and the Red Sox, getting any deal done is a necessity, whether that involves little in return or having to eat his salary.

Mike has been a leader on this Sox club since he came over as a throw-in to the Josh Beckett deal from the Florida Marlins in 2005. He is a poised veteran who can speak both Spanish and English and has used that skill to unite the clubhouse. This year has been tough for the veteran, who has played in just 31 games, hitting .231 with 2 home runs. Even before a stint on the DL recently Lowell was not getting the nod to play often and spent most of his days on the bench wondering when his next chance would be. For a veteran who has brought a ton to this team over the last 5 years, including a World Series title, he deserves the chance to play, even if it is not in Boston.

The tough part for Terry Francona is how do you get Lowell playing time with the current lineup? The mainstays in this lineup since day 1 have been 3B Adrian Beltre and 1B Kevin Youkilis and despite injuries at every other position, those 2 have remained strong. David Ortiz looked like he may have stepped aside for Mike Lowell as the DH in April, but has since been crushing the ball, making it near impossible to rest him. Lowell just doesn’t fit into the Sox lineup right now and as difficult it is to move him and eat his entire salary, that is what has to happen and I hope what Theo and Lowell were chatting about these past few days. Lowell doesn’t have a lot of time left in the bigs, so it isn’t fair to waste his remaining talents as a bench player.

On a slightly different note, but still very connected, I can see Mike Lowell being a terrific coach/manager in the future. He has the calm, cool demeanor and an ability to communicate with anyone, including confront players if needed. Lowell has a wealth of knowledge about the game of baseball and would be an asset to any organization. I certainly hope Theo has placed that option on the table, because it would be a shame to see him walk away and coach elsewhere. That leads me to my final point relating to retirement.

Retirement is a way for players to bow out gracefully (sometimes) and walk away from the game on their own terms. My gut feeling a few months ago was that Lowell’s pride was going to prevent him from hanging up his cleats (and the fact that he was adamant about still begin able to play the game). Now, after another DL stint for his hip issue and no sign of playing time or a trade in sight, this may be his opportunity to walk away. He has won 2 World Series titles (1 with the Marlins, 1 with the Sox), has been to 4 All-Star games (3 with the Marlins, 1 with the Sox) and was the 2007 World Series MVP. He has accomplished a lot in the game of baseball and should have no regrets walking away.

Everything is hearsay and guesses at this point, both about the conversations between Lowell and Sox management and what his future in baseball looks like. Throughout the years, Lowell has given the Sox a whole helluva lot more than most expected and has brought the clubhouse together on many occasions. If I sound like I am saying goodbye, it is because I genuinely think Lowell will no longer be a member of the Boston Red Sox at the end of this week, one way or another, but I have been wrong before. Regardless, the big question still remains, what’s next for Mike Lowell?

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