Red Sox make Beckett trade official
Boston also acquires Lowell, Mota in seven-player swap
BOSTON -- In a clear sign that baseball business is open on Yawkey Way, even without a general manager, the Red Sox on Thanksgiving evening officially announced the acquisition of a potential ace in right-hander Josh Beckett from the Florida Marlins.
The Sox also added third baseman Mike Lowell and right-handed reliever Guillermo Mota in the deal while sending four Minor League prospects -- shortstop Hanley Ramirez and three right-handed pitchers (Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia) -- to the Marlins.
"It's an exciting time getting to go to Boston to play," Beckett said during an impromptu conference call with Marlins beat reporters that the right-hander arranged. "I had a Boston hat growing up and I'm from Texas."
A big reason for that was another Texan named Roger Clemens, who pitched the first 13 seasons of his legendary career with the Red Sox and was idolized by Beckett.
Beckett becomes the most significant pitcher the Red Sox have acquired in a trade since the blockbuster that brought Curt Schilling to Boston two years ago, a transaction that was consummated the day after Thanksgiving.
"I think Josh Beckett has got the makeup and the mentality to pitch at Fenway and dominate at this level," said free agent first baseman Kevin Millar, who teamed with Beckett in Florida in 2001-02 before moving to Boston in 2003.
Though the Red Sox bid adieu to two of their best Minor Leaguers in Ramirez and Sanchez, this deal can hardly be termed as short-sighted.
The 25-year-old Beckett, who regularly registers his fastball in the mid 90s, is just entering his prime and could emerge into one of the game's elite pitchers if he stays healthy. Of course, the Red Sox, who control his contractual rights for the next two seasons, would like to lock him up long-term before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2007 season.
The last hang-up before the much-rumored deal became official was the Red Sox conducting their due diligence in making sure that Beckett's right shoulder, which was stiff and tired late in the 2005 season, was not a trade-breaking issue. Ultimately, they decided that Beckett's arm was sound and enthusiastically signed off on a deal that has been anticipated for days.
Beckett is convinced that his shoulder is not an issue.
"Personally, I don't think it is," he said. "My last start was one of my best velocity-wise of the season."
Beckett, a highly touted pitcher since the day the Marlins drafted him, produced a career year in 2005, going 15-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 29 starts. Of course, the pinnacle of his career thus far was his World Series MVP performance against the Yankees in 2003, when he pitched a gem in Game 6 on three days' rest to clinch the title for the Marlins.
The biggest question mark on Beckett at this stage is his durability. He's yet to make 30 starts or pitch 200 innings in a season, due mostly to blisters on his middle finger.
In his career, Beckett is 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA. Back in 1999, Beckett was taken by the Marlins as the second overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft out of Spring Hill High School in Texas. The owner of the Marlins when that pick was made? None other than current Sox owner John W. Henry.
While it was a no-brainer to bring in a pitcher like Beckett, the Red Sox had to think a little longer and harder about adding Lowell, who is not only coming off the least productive season of his career, but is also owed a total of $18 million over the next two seasons.
The Red Sox hope that Lowell, backed by the comfortable confines of Fenway Park, will get back to the type of hitter he was in Florida's World Series championship season of 2003, when he belted 32 homers and drove in 105 runs. Lowell's numbers dipped a bit in 2004, as he smacked 27 homers and had 85 RBIs. But in 2005, Lowell never seemed right, hitting .236 with eight homers and 58 RBIs.
"I think Mikey Lowell will bounce back in a change of scenery and absolutely dominate, and I think he's very excited to be a Red Sox," said Millar, who is a close friend of Lowell's.
On the plus side, Lowell didn't let his offensive slide affect his defense, as he won the Gold Glove Award for National League third basemen in 2005.
The 31-year-old Lowell has played 989 games in his career, hitting .272 with 143 homers and 578 RBIs.
Mota should help Boston's bullpen depth. In 386 games -- split between the Expos, Dodgers and Marlins -- Mota is 22-24 with a 3.61 ERA. He was 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in 56 outings in 2005.
Ever since Theo Epstein decided to relinquish his post as general manager of the Red Sox on Oct. 31, there have been questions of how the Red Sox could stay productive during the Hot Stove season without a GM in place. That question was answered emphatically with this trade.
As club president/CEO Larry Lucchino continues to interview perspective candidates, the assembled staff in baseball operations has stayed hard at work, talking trades with teams and free agency with players and/or agents.
This trade was a collaboration of front office executives Bill Lajoie, Jeremy Kapstein, Jed Hoyer, Peter Woodfork, Ben Cherington and Craig Shipley.
While Ramirez had the biggest name of all the prospects involved, it was perhaps tougher for the Red Sox to part with Sanchez, given how invaluable talented young arms can be.
Sanchez, who missed the entire 2003 season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, has come back strong the last two years.
He opened the 2005 season at Class A Wilmington, going 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts. Sanchez was then promoted to Double-A Portland, going 3-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 11 starts.
It is unclear how Ramirez would have fit into Boston's future, with veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria under contract for the next three seasons. Ramirez was called up to Boston late in the 2005 season, going 0-for-2.
Ramirez hit .271 with six homers and 52 RBIs at Double-A Portland in 2005.
The lesser-known Delgado made 33 relief appearances for Class A Greenville last season, going 7-3 with a 3.50 ERA.
Garcia went 3-5 with a 2.01 ERA in 32 appearances in 2005 for Greenville.
Beckett joins a rotation that is also likely to include Schilling, Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield. Hard-throwing right-hander Jonathan Papelbon will also compete for a spot, assuming the Red Sox opt to move him out of the bullpen he thrived in last year. Left-hander David Wells has requested a trade and the Red Sox are likely to grant him his wish.
Lowell will take over the third base position that Bill Mueller so aptly handled the last three years. Kevin Youkilis, who was hoping to hold down that position after knocking on the door the last couple of years, might move to first base.