At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sox Theater of the Absurd Moves from Pinter to Beckett

Reports last night indicate that the Boston Red Sox are about to acquire Marlins right-hander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell in a trade for highly-touted minor leaguers Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and possibly Jesus Delgado. Such a move likely indicates that clubhouse-popular and fan-favorite free agent Bill Mueller will not return to the Sox, and that erstwhile third-baseman Kevin Youkilis may be ticketed to play first base, where he has all of nine games of big league experience.

Presuming all the physicals are passed and the deal is consummated, this move is the most solid evidence yet that the Red Sox indeed are moving forward smoothly despite the absence of a general manager, the hiring of which might be said to be Pinteresque in theatrical style. There is nothing absurd about putting Beckett center stage, however – lifetime, he’s 41-34 and has an ERA of 3.46, and he has nearly three times as many strikeouts (607) as walks (223). He was the MVP of the 2003 World Series, so he has that all-important post-season experience that contending teams look for. And he’s 17 years younger than David Wells, who probably will be traded home to San Diego. So all in all, Beckett promises to contribute right away to the Sox’ success and could anchor the club’s rotation for a long time to come.

Lowell, too, is a solid pickup, though coming off something of a down season, he is something of an offensive question mark. Assuming he rebounds, though, he should hit more than 20 homers, drive in 90 to 100 runs, and hit .275 or so – and since he’s also a defensive Gold Glover, he’ll bring a level of all-around play that Boston hasn’t seen since, well, Bill Mueller, who also was no slouch at the plate and in the field.

Statistics and roster-building aside, the best thing about this deal may be the fact that the Sox are in a position to engineer a trade for established players without having to remit wads of extra cash to make it happen. For the first time in a long time, the team has prospects who are good enough for other teams to desire, and one hopes its commitment to player development continues no matter how much of a farce the GM situation may appear to be.

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