How much is Mike Lowell worth?
October 17, 2007 5 Comments
I think everyone will agree that Mike Lowell has put up a tremendous season for Boston in 2007. With Manny Ramirez appearing in only 133 games and David Ortiz ailing, there’s no way we could have won the division if not for his contributions at the plate. Not to mention he’s a damn good third baseman. But Lowell’s contract, once considered an albatross necessary to get Josh Beckett, is up, and the front office has yet to negotiate with him at all. With Alex Rodriguez likely to opt out of his contract with the Yankees, it begs the question: should we re-sign Lowell? For how much?
Theo and Co. don’t believe in paying a player for past services, but they assign a value based on what they predict they will get out of a guy in each year of his contract. They also like young talent, electing to acquire a lot of 25-29 year olds who have a lot of baseball left in them. Lowell is 34 this year, and will command a multi-year deal in this market, which is relatively weak in third basemen.
Should Lowell walk, the Sox could sign another free agent, trade or acquire a first baseman and slide Kevin Youkilis back over to third. But considering that Youk hasn’t made an error at first base since July 4th of last year (last night excluded), I’m not sure you wanna do that.
- Lowell hit .324/.378/.501 this season, and his .879 OPS tied him for 33rd among all qualified players with Victor Martinez, and 6th among all third basemen.
- His 120 RBI made him 7th in that category, and 2nd among all third basemen (you know #1 already). It also set a Red Sox record for RBI by a third baseman.
- He was 12th among third basemen with 21 HR this year, and 10th in XBH with 60.
- In September, without Manny in the lineup ahead of him, he batted cleanup to the tune of .317/.374/.471 with 26 RBI. That’s huge.
- He had a career-high 15 errors in 2007, but a bunch of those came early this season. 15 on the year still ain’t bad.
- He’s hitting .280/.310/.520 in seven games this postseason, when the Sox are struggling to score runs.
One way to measure a player’s value is using Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) metric. It gives you a basic idea of how many wins Lowell provided for you over the average waiver wire/free agent player, accounting for hitting and fielding. Here are Lowell’s WARP-1 and WARP-2 (WARP adjusted for league difficulty, etc.) values over the past three seasons:
Year WARP1 WARP2 2005 3.4 4.5 2006 6.1 8.1 2007 7.1 9.5
So you could extrapolate that Lowell would probably be good for an average of 7.4 WARP-2 next year, and let’s say, oh, 6.4 the year after that. Just for comparison, here are the average WARP-2s for some other free agents in his class:
Alex Rodriguez 11.2 Pedro Feliz 4.1 Russ Branyan 2.2
Like I said, a very thin class at 3B.
But let’s face it, a lot of baseball is about the money, just ask A-Rod. The Red Sox payroll on Opening Day was $143,026,214, which means that they were willing to pay $1.49M per victory this season. And you’d have to add the $350k a replacement player would make. So to the Red Sox, Lowell’s worth would be something along the lines of $11.4M for 2008 and perhaps $10M in 2009. That’s actual value, so if you overpay him, you’d like to save money somewhere else to compensate for that. As much as Lowell enjoys playing in Boston, I don’t see him signing for two years and $21.4M; some sources are speculating that other teams might even offer him four years! I think if he’s willing to sign for around two years and $25-28 million, we should do it.
BTW, Scott Boras has been saying that A-Rod’s next contract would top $30 million per annum, but by this math, he’d be worth only about $17.1M to the Red Sox if he has an average (for him) season. I think Theo and his guys would pass on that.