One of the more intriguing trade agreements from the winter meetings earlier this month in Indianapolis fell apart Saturday when the Rangers nixed the proposed Mike Lowell deal because of the third baseman's thumb injury, CBSSports.com has confirmed.
An examination of Lowell by specialists revealed that the injury, suffered late in the season, remains a problem: Lowell, according to sources, was found to have a torn radial collateral ligament in his right thumb, an injury that will require surgery following the holidays. Expected recovery time is six to eight weeks, which would mean that Lowell should be ready for spring training but might have to start slowly.
As part of the extensive physical examination the Rangers conducted, Lowell saw a hand specialist in Arizona on Friday and then met with other physicians in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday. The Rangers learned enough to scotch a deal that would have sent minor league catcher Max Ramirez and $3 million in cash to Boston with the Red Sox covering $9 million of Lowell's $12 million 2010 salary.
The Rangers have been looking for a middle-of-the-lineup bat and were hoping to use Lowell, who will be 36 on opening day, as a part-time designated hitter, first baseman and even spot him in at third base to give Michael Young the occasional day off.
Lowell, however, has an extensive injury history, most recently the thumb and a troublesome right hip. He underwent surgery on that, for a torn labrum, following the 2008 season. It was because of these two injuries in particular that the Rangers moved along at such a deliberate pace. While the framework of this deal was set in Indianapolis, officials from both clubs cautioned that several things needed to happen before it would be done.
Saturday's news is highly inconvenient for the Red Sox, who were hoping to move Lowell, clearing room for them to do two things: Add a middle-of-the-order bat who also upgrades the club defensively. Among other options, Boston has been courting free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and keeping in touch with the Padres regarding a possible Adrian Gonzalez deal.
In the latter, which sources say remains an point of intrigue for Boston but is not close to happening, Gonzalez could play first base and Kevin Youkilis would slide over to third.
But the development with Lowell's thumb now will make it impossible for the Red Sox to deal him before spring training. Clubs with any interest will want to see him play first and make sure he's healthy. Lowell batted .290 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs for the Sox in '09 but hurt his thumb taking batting practice during the season's final week.
The news also isn't good for the Rangers, who are trying to add a strong right-handed bat but don't have much money. The club is up for sale amid owner Tom Hicks' serious financial problems. With Boston paying much of the freight for Lowell, the Rangers had found a fairly creative way to improve inexpensively.
Now, without Lowell, the Rangers will look elsewhere -- possibly to designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, whose run with the Angels has all but come to an official end with Hideki Matsui joining them last week. Texas also is interested in free agent outfielder Jermaine Dye, but unless his demand decrease, the Rangers probably won't be able to be a player there.