And just when you thought this day -- one of the most tumultuous, action-filled baseball days in recent memory -- simply couldn't get any crazier, that's exactly what ended up happening.
According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the Texas Rangers have reached a preliminary agreement with the Red Sox on a trade that will send 25-year-old catcher Max Ramirez to Boston in exchange for 35-year-old third baseman Mike Lowell, as well as a sizable cash subsidy that is believed to cover "nearly all" of Lowell's $12 million salary for the 2010 regular season.
The deal has not yet been finalized (and may not be for several more days), owing to the necessity of (a) the deal securing the approval of Red Sox ownership, (b) the teams exchanging medical information, a process which is not to be taken lightly given Lowell's arthroscopic hip surgery 14 months ago and Ramirez's previously debilitating wrist problems, and (c) Major League Baseball green-lighting the deal, due to the apparently large sum of money changing hands.
[Major, major note: As of 12:20 A.M. CST, Rosenthal was reporting that Lowell's hip and thumb (?!) issues could potentially derail the entire deal, with one source stating, "This thing could still blow up." The oddity in play here is that back on October 4th, ESPN.com's Pedro Gomez reported that Lowell's sore right thumb would not have precluded his post-season availability, so either the hip problems are rearing their ugly head and that's what's really jeopardizing this trade, or the thumb injury was far more serious than anyone let on.]
Assuming this trade ultimately goes through in its currently reported Ramirez-for-Lowell state and the Red Sox eat, oh, say, $8 million (as has been suggested by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News), there's cause for both optimism and concern; Lowell's a mostly known quantity, a low-variance hitter whose on-base utility and power have quietly eroded since his peak 2003-07 seasons -- excluding his flukishly abysmal 2005 campaign -- but remain useful if correctly utilized, which is to say that he's best employed as a lefty-mashing designated hitter who can spell Michael Young and Chris Davis at third and first base, respectively.
Where the risk factors into the equation is if/when he's not viewed in that light and instead amasses something around 500 plate appearances (a very real possibility), in which case he's probably good for a park-adjusted wOBA in the neighborhood of .350 (think an overall batting line of .280/.335/.460) -- nothing special from a player who is DH/1B/3B-exclusive, and certainly nothing special at a $4 million price tag. At that price (and with the loss of Ramirez), you're probably better off pursuing Fernando Tatis or another available talent of his ilk and shooting for either more upside or less expense in terms of cash and prospects.
Ramirez earned recognition as the system's 11th-best prospect in BBTiA's Fall 2009 Rangers prospect rankings two weeks ago, but multiple power-sapping wrist injuries derailed his 2009 minor league season to the umpteenth degree, and there has been long-standing concern as to whether he can handle catcher and/or first base without being a defensive liability. He's an enormous offensive talent who could certainly start putting it all together, but needs to hurry up if he's actually going to do it; plenty of players enjoy late-20s breakouts, but defensively handicapped 25-year-old "position players" who have yet to prove they can hit above AA-ball raise some fairly conspicuous warning flags, irrespective of their pedigrees.