How much is Mike Lowell worth?

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.

Consider this:

  • 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:

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.


5 Responses to How much is Mike Lowell worth?

  1. Pat says:

    Dan shaughnessy wrote: Theo Epstein is in for his share of finger-pointing if the Sox are eliminated by the Tribe. It’s never a good thing when your $143 million payroll bites the dust against a team with a $61 million payroll. Dan Duquette assembled half of the 2004 champs, but what we are looking at today is almost exclusively Theo’s team and it’s his most recent acquisitions who have been exposed thus far in October.

    This upsets me. Firstly, it’s ridiculous to say that the most expensive team will win. Secondly, I think Theo has done a great job, and has us getting stronger into the future. I think this is totally unwarranted. Dan also points at Terry as a big cause of “the problem” and on this I also disagree.

    I do wonder though, if someone should be replaced. I have been very displeased with Demarlo Hale most of the year, and wouldn’t mind seeing him replaced. Also, I wonder about our new batting coach? It’s hard to say when we have done so well sometimes, taking starters out of the game early, for example. Or othertimes looking collectively foolish against a rookie or 3-5 pitcher. Could that also be a result of poor scouting? Are the batters influenced that much by scouting reports? It’s confusing.

    Also, it’s not Theo’s fault Lugo and Drew had off years. This is a bad place for GMs where, because a player can’t adjust to the Fenway atmosphere (Gagne), they catch a lot of flack.

    I think Francona has shown he can manage a team through September and into October. Sometimes he makes me furious, but overall, I think he is great for the team.

  2. donchoi says:

    Hey Pat, you are broaching a whole new topic here, and one that I’m sure we will get into hot and heavy this off-season, should the Sox not advance to the World Series. But hey, it’s not over yet! I like our chances tonight, and with the team set to come back to Fenway for games 6 & 7, who knows? Maybe my Lowell post was a little premature, but it’s been something I’ve been ruminating about for a while.

  3. Pat says:

    hey sorry. I wont post my own topics anymore.

    And I haven’t given up on the sox at all. I’m trying to go to game seven.

    Nice post on Lowell. It looks like he is the best option for 2008. I just wish we had better options (A-Rod excluded).

  4. donchoi says:

    Hey, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t upset or anything. Actually, if you can give me a little bit of a commitment, I’d be happy for you to post your thoughts on this blog. It’s been my intention all along to include other serious authors and make this into a more interactive blog.

    Let me know if you’d like to become an author here. I only ask that you:

    1) Keep it family friendly. So even our youngest Sox fans can enjoy this blog.
    2) Proofread your own posts. I don’t want to have to go and correct other people’s spelling, grammar or capitalization.

  5. Pingback: Epstein “sure” that Sox will keep Lowell « Red Sox Talk

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