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Mailbag: On Lowell, Bay, Theo

1/1/2010

The first of two parts of a New Year's mailbag. Click here for Part 2:

Q: Gordon: [Jason] Bay and his agent stumbled and fell with his signing on with the Mets. It always amazes me that players (like Bay) make ridiculous decisions over a difference of $6 million (before agent cut and taxes) spread over four years. In private moments, Bay will express regrets for this decision as he patrols Citi Field, longing for his old friends and fans back at Fenway. A sad situation for a really good guy and great locker room companion. -- Ted (Rio Verde, Ariz.)

A: Ted, the financial spread between the two offers is more than you suggest. The Mets' offer includes a vesting option for a fifth year, which means if he hits certain performance standards -- usually based on games played or plate appearances -- he'll be paid a total of $80 million, or $20M more than the Boston offer. I agree Fenway seemed to be a great fit for Bay, but we're talking about a guy who has changed organizations multiple times (Expos, Mets, Padres, Pirates, Sox and now Mets) and has the kind of personality that fits comfortably wherever he goes, so I don't think he'll be pining as much as you suggest.

Q: Gordon, Happy New Year. One player who has always intrigued me but no one seems to talk about is Adam Dunn. His numbers last year in Washington were comparable to Jason Bay and I would think Washington would want to move him with only one year left at $10 million. He plays left and first base, two position the Sox are looking to fill. Is there a chance of the Sox making a run at him? -- Ryan (Boston)

A: Ryan, the Red Sox could have taken a run at him a year ago in free agency and they passed, which tells me that they consider his defense too great a liability. How bad is he defensively? FanGraphs rate him the worst defensive player in baseball over the past three seasons, and by far the worst in 2009.

Q: Is there any chance the Red Sox give Jeremy Hermida some time at first base? Seems like he is a young player they would want to keep, with JD Drew's contract expiring in a couple of years and Mike Cameron having only a two-year contract. -- Seth (Tampa, Fla.)

A: Seth, there has been no discussion that I'm aware of regarding Hermida playing first base. He still has to prove he can be a productive player before the Sox worry about how he fits in their future plans. For now, he remains a fourth outfielder. I think when the Red Sox look ahead, they envision an outfield that includes players such as Ryan Westmoreland and Josh Reddick.

Q: Is Matt Holliday still on the market? Why does everyone in the media seem to think the Red Sox are content with their outfield and not going after Holliday? What do you think the Sox chances are of landing Holliday? -- Ethan W. (Northborough, Mass.)

A: Ethan, barring a shocking reversal of field, that ship has sailed. The Red Sox made Holliday an offer, and when his agent, Scott Boras, responded that Holliday was still looking for Mark Teixeira-type money, the Sox signed John Lackey instead and added Cameron to play the outfield. The Sox didn't want to get into a bidding war for Holliday, anticipating that if they went hard after him, the Yankees would jump into the mix. I think Holliday will wind up with the Cardinals.

Q: Do you think the Red Sox should have waited rather than signing Mike Cameron to a deal? I feel he is not worth what they are paying him for two years. He's a 37-year-old non-power-hitting outfielder. I really think Epstein is overrated with that payroll he has. -- Ed R. (N. Easton, Mass.)

A: Ed, from the beginning of the 2006 season, only four center fielders have hit more home runs than Cameron: Carlos Beltran (111), Grady Sizemore (103), Torii Hunter (102) and Curtis Granderson (94). Cameron hit 92. Would I take any of those four players ahead of Cameron? Yes, especially when you factor in age. But I think Cameron is a reasonable sign at two years, $15.5 million, especially when you look ahead to the future, when the Red Sox envision some of their top prospects, such as Westmoreland, breaking into the outfield mix.

Q: Hey Gordon, I've been thinking about how the Red Sox can improve and I am wondering how they can get a consistent or reliable bat? I was thinking about the possibility of trading for Jose Reyes. What reasonable options are there for the Red Sox to get a consistent bat for a trade and/or free agents? Adrian Beltre is a potential but I believe shortstop is more vital. Thanks. -- Peter L. (Braintree, Mass.)

A: Peter, I think the Mets see Reyes as a vital part of their future and believe that, when healthy, he is one of the best players in baseball. The Sox are satisfied with Marco Scutaro as shortstop in the short term, and they are hoping that Jose Iglesias, the Cuban defector, will prove to be as exciting, at least defensively, as Reyes in the near future.

Q: Edes, where are you? I have come to expect an article a day out of you about the Red Sox. Instead I'm staring at a picture of Terry Francona sitting on a tank with a Howitzer in his hands. -- Buddy B. (Lake Forest, Calif.)

A: Buddy, here I am. An article a day? Hmmm. That's what you've got to love about Sox fans -- it can be the middle of winter, holidays, whatever, and they crave any morsel they can get on the Sox. Buddy, I'm going to miss some days now and then, but come spring training, those stories will be coming three and four a day, so not to worry.

Q: Gordon, I have been a fan for over 60 years; I LOVE the SOX. I am not, however, a fan of Theo Epstein. I think he "insults" players (i.e. Mike Lowell). I hope that Mike has a HUGE year and shows the front office what type of a player and person he is. The Sox will go as far as Mike will take them! What is your take on this mess? -- Shirley (Charleston, W.Va.)

A: Shirley, I can tell you that Theo Epstein and everyone in the Sox front office have the greatest respect for Mike Lowell, but Epstein is in a job in which he can't let personal feelings cloud his judgment on what is best for the team. Clearly, you believe he is making a big mistake with Lowell, and I'm certain that Lowell's presence will be missed in the Sox clubhouse, but in their judgment, they just don't think the hip injury will allow him to play at the same high level he has in the past.

Q: First of all, welcome back. I really enjoy your work both written and broadcast, and I'm glad you're back covering the Sox. Anyway, how does something like the Mike Lowell situation happen? I mean, did either the player or the team hide the injury? There are big dollars and reputations at stake in these transactions, and I find it hard to believe that an injury would go unnoticed by anyone (or that anyone would THINK it would). Further, it seems to me to be an extremely uncomfortable situation for all: "Um, gee, Mike, uhÂ… good to see ya. How's the family? No hard feelings, again, right?' Sheesh. Now the Sox are red-faced and seemingly "stuck" with a player they don't really want. What now? -- Mark R. (North Providence, R.I.)

A: Mark, I don't think it was a question of hiding the injury. Lowell has no reason to protect the Red Sox if he thought they were hiding the injury, and in an interview with Rob Bradford of WEEI, he made it clear he didn't think any skullduggery was involved. Their initial thought was that it was a bad sprain -- I think Lowell believed the same thing because of a similar issue he'd had in the past. The Sox continued to monitor the injury, and sent Mike Reinold to see Lowell in Miami in November, when it was Reinold's recommendation that the thumb be immobilized. Epstein's track record suggests that he's not in the habit of trying to dump injured players on another club; Texas GM Jon Daniels certainly has not raised the question of the Sox trying to do something underhanded. And Daniels saw enough in the medicals to insist that Lowell come in for a physical before the trade was consummated.

But your other point, about the discomfort level involved, could not be more perceptive. It's an extremely uncomfortable position for all parties involved, especially given that Lowell knows the Sox still want to unload him -- and undoubtedly will -- and the Red Sox are sensitive to the perception that they're dumping on a guy who exceeded their expectations while he was here.

Q: Is Rocco Baldelli still with the Red Sox? I don't believe he's been released from the team. Thanks. -- Antonio (Fall River, Mass.)

A: Antonio, Rocco is a free agent and still unsigned. He is not expected to re-sign with the Red Sox because of his physical limitations. But Sox fans got a glimpse of what a class act he is in his one season here.

Q: What are the odds of Johnny Damon suiting up in a Red Sox jersey again next season? -- Rich (Woburn, Mass.)

A: Rich, in a word, zero. Or, if you prefer, nil, zilch, nada, fuhgedaboutit.

Q: I am in the process of moving to the Charlotte, N.C., area. Are there any Red Sox farm teams in the area? -- Patrick

A: Patrick, the Red Sox have two minor league teams within driving distance: the Class A Salem Red Sox, who are located in Salem, Va., and play in the Carolina League, and the Class A Greenville Drive, who are located in Greenville, S.C., and play in the South Atlantic League, which is a notch below the Carolina League.

Q: With respect to your article "BA: Westmoreland, Kelly top prospects," Lars Anderson didn't struggle in Pawtucket -- he struggled in Portland. Keep up the great writing, and a very happy holiday to you. -- Nick P. (Portland, Maine)

A: Nick, I take it you watched some of those struggles firsthand. Anderson did indeed spend all of 2009 in Portland, where he batted .233 with 9 home runs and 51 RBIs in 119 games. I promoted him faster than the Sox did. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.