November 22, 2005

Lowell and Blalock

The Red Sox and Marlins have reportedly agreed to a deal that will send Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston for prospects, including Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Lowell and so the deal would seem to end the chances of him coming to Minnesota. However, I'm not so sure.

The Red Sox already have Kevin Youkilis ready to take over at third base, which is why they are expected to let Bill Mueller (who the Twins are also reportedly interested in) leave via free agency. Their acquiring Lowell is likely more about getting their hands on Beckett than it is actually wanting Lowell, which means they are probably willing to turn flip him to another team.

Had the Twins tried to get Lowell directly from the Marlins, they likely would have had to give up a prospect or two, which is far from ideal. Now that he's about to be property of the Red Sox, perhaps the Twins can get him for something a little more palatable. After all, the Red Sox and Twins were reportedly in some fairly significant trade discussions during the season.

Back then Boston was said to be interested in J.C. Romero and Kyle Lohse, who are the sort of somewhat costly, marginally important players I could see the Twins parting with in a deal for Lowell. Assuming, of course either, the Red Sox or Marlins are picking up most of his remaining contract. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that the Red Sox actually want Lowell and plan to play either him or Youkilis at first base. We'll soon find out, I guess.

Prior to dealing with the Red Sox, the Marlins were said to be on the verge of sending Beckett to Texas for a package centering around Hank Blalock. Now that Blalock is staying in Texas for the time being, his name has been added to the long list of hitters the Twins are rumored to be after. Here's a note from's story on the Beckett-to-Boston deal, which was written by Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark:

Teams known to be interested in Blalock include the Twins, Phillies and Devil Rays.

On the surface, the idea of the Twins going after Blalock is an encouraging one. After all, he's a 25-year-old third baseman who has averaged 29 homers and 97 RBIs over his three full big-league seasons, making him exactly what the Twins need. However, once you look past his raw numbers, I think it looks like a mistake.

Blalock has had the good fortune of playing half of his major-league games in one of baseball's best ballparks for offense, and his home/road splits are about as lopsided as you'll ever see. This season, for instance, Blalock hit an impressive .297/.361/.534 at home, with 20 homers and 63 RBIs. Those are monster numbers, but he batted just .231/.276/.335 with five homers and 29 RBIs on the road.

While The Ballpark in Arlington (or whatever they're calling it these days) isn't quite on the same offense-boosting level as Coors Field, it is definitely something to consider when evaluating Texas hitters. It's no coincidence that the Rangers have been known for their offense over the last decade or so, and Blalock has taken advantage of his home ballpark more than anyone:

                    AT HOME                          ON ROAD
2003 .342 .399 .615 1.014 .260 .301 .435 .736
2004 .311 .386 .540 .926 .239 .323 .460 .783
2005 .297 .361 .534 .895 .231 .276 .335 .611

CAREER .310 .379 .548 .927 .238 .296 .396 .692

I'm not suggesting that Blalock will be a .238 hitter if the Rangers trade him, but his sub par numbers on the road are clearly significant. The fact is that he has hit like Juan Castro away from Texas, which should make the Twins (or any other team) more than a little leery when it comes to potentially dealing for him.

Let's say the Twins deal Scott Baker and/or Francisco Liriano for Blalock, thinking they are getting the 25-year-old third baseman who is a career .274/.338/.471 hitter. What happens if Blalock gets to Minnesota, finds that the Metrodome isn't quite so nice to hit in, and bats .238/.296/.396 like he has on the road over his career? Or even, say, .260/.320/.430, which would be a major improvement on his non-Texas numbers?

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Coming to America: Kenji Jojima (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Third Base: The Crossroads, Part Three (by Steve Treder)

Pick of the Day (140-121, +$1,875):
Utah +10 (-110) over Seattle

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