Red Sox Do It Right

Bravo to the Theo-less Red Sox for making a couple outstanding moves this week. Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell (and more recently Guillermo Mota) for a handful of prospects is an exceptional deal. The team is essentially getting upgrades in the starting rotation, bullpen and at third base. There are a few issues, however. Calling Josh Beckett the team ace is ludicrous. The kid (all 25 years of him) has never pitched more than 200 innings in a season, and been on the DL nine times with a Derek Lowe-like blister problem. After reading a couple profiles on him, he also has a Derek Lowe-like tendency to get hung up on bad performances that could affect his every pitch. If this were Derek Lowe, would you call him the team ace? Wasn't Matt Clement supposed to be the ace of 2005?

Derek Lowe redux?
Now here comes a series of "ifs" -- If Schilling returns to form, if Tim Wakefield stays the course, if Matt Celement can refine his form, if Beckett fulfills his potential, if John Papelbon doesn't succumb to full season-rookie pressure, and if Bronson Arroyo steps it up a little more, the Red Sox look to have a great, young pitching staff with enormous potential, anchored and mentored (more importantly) by Curt Schilling. Think of it as the entire Celtics team (something like nine rookies and second-year players) in a pitching rotation. The icing on the cake is that Beckett is slated to make less than $5 million a year on his contract (even after arbitration).

Another big "if" comes in the form of Mike Lowell. In order for the Red Sox to get Beckett for what's considered a great deal, they had to take on Mike Lowell's contact, which could best be described as cumbersome. He certainly did not play a season worth $7.5 million for the Marlins last year. If Mike Lowell can regain 2003-2004 form, any criticism will fade into the background. With no disrespect to Bill Mueller, I think 2006 will be the year of Mike Lowell. That's right, the Mike Lowell reclamation project starts here on the Angry Bostonian -- ingredients include a new team and new ballpark. You heard it here first -- Mike Lowell will lead the league in doubles. Thank you Green Monster. It's the least I can do for the player who anchored my fantasy team in the first half of 2003. Plus, with the vacuum caused by Manny Ramirez's contract when he gets traded, there's plenty of room for Mike Lowell's $9 million for the next two years.

And the wheeling and dealing Red Sox are not done! Unsatisfied with the shaky health status of Josh Beckett, the Sox were able to pry away Guillermo Mota from the Marlins for a prospect no one has even heard about. He didn't have a spectacular 2005 (and here's an "if", albeit a small "if"); if Guiellermo Mota can show the flash he had as a setup man to Eric Gagne in 2003-2004, the Sox bullpen can easily match the bullpen of the 2004 World Series team. Even if Mota has a year similar to last year, it's worth it to have an experienced bullpen arm, rather than a prospect that's several years away from the big show.

Former Red Sox prospect... and Rockies prospect... and Devil Rays prospect...
and Mets prospect... and Reds prospect...

Speaking of those prospects, the Boston Sports Guy had a terrific few paragraphs on his page about prospects and exactly how many actually pan out. Besides the Jeff Bagwell-for-Larry Andersen trade in 1990 (which wasn't a bad trade, since it was made so the Sox could make a playoff run that year -- and they did win the AL East), what former Sox prospects are we crying about? Who remembers Brian Rose or Casey Fossum?

A well-run major league team farm system is like a dot-com company in the nineties: tons of potential is being created to the point when some investor will give you millions of dollars, all based on what is essentially written on paper, with very little result or proof of results. It's like practically printing money! Even though Theo is gone, I hope that one of his most remembered legacies (after the World Series win) is his rejuvination of the Red Sox farm system -- his handiwork in that part of the organization will provide assets for many years to come, if done right.

The Red Sox might not go all the way in 2006, but they are filling their roster up with a lot of big and little "ifs" that could limit them or enable them. Maybe all the pieces will come together in a Patriots 2001-02 Superbowl sort of way. Either way, it looks to be an enjoyable ride.


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