For Lowell, Comfort Talks Louder Than Money

When Mike Lowell filed for free agency after the World Series, he was determined to land a four-year deal someplace. But he's also seen enough players take the most lucrative offer and live to regret it to know that less is sometimes more.

"I like to believe I'm not all about money," Lowell said on a conference call Tuesday shortly after he officially signed a three-year deal worth a reported $37.5 million to remain with the Red Sox. "I feel like I'm more of a baseball player than a businessman. So I kind of weighed where I felt comfortable, where I thought I could produce the best with a team that had a chance to win a world championship. And it was Boston.

"The fact that we just won and I played with a set of teammates that I think are unparalleled and with a manager [he feels] the same way [about] and with a fan base that's unbelievable—all those came into play. I really don't believe that everything should be about money."

Lowell follows in the footsteps of Curt Schilling, who signed a one-year deal worth $8 million to remain with the Sox before he could talk money with other teams. Theo Epstein said the Sox appreciated the willingness of the duo to leave dollars on the table in order to return to Boston and try to defend the Sox' World Series crown.

"I think it's a great testament to Mike's character…and [it's] two players now, Mike and Curt, who have taken less money to stay in Boston," Epstein said. "It's not something we take for granted. We certainly appreciate it. They're hopefully going to be a big factor in us continuing to succeed at the big league level."

Retaining Lowell certainly seems to increase the Sox' chances to repeat. With no obvious in-house replacement—Kevin Youkilis came up as a third baseman but won the Gold Glove at first base this season while prospect Chad Spann had a brutal season at Triple-A—the Sox likely would have had to pay a premium in the trade or free agent market.

Instead, they were able to keep a productive and popular player—and on their terms. The Sox are fond of Lowell, who hit a career-high .320 with 120 RBI during the regular season, won World Series MVP honors and is viewed by teammates as an indispensable clubhouse presence. But with Lowell nearing his 34th birthday, the Sox were steadfast in refusing to go beyond three years—even if it meant losing Lowell to a team willing to offer the fourth year.

"I think we were balancing two somewhat competing interests," Epstein said. "Number one, our desire to bring Mike back and let him continue his very important place in the organization. And number two, we were also trying to adhere to some principles about contract length and about the future roster and payroll construction of the organization that were important to us. We just tried to balance those two interests as best we could and ended up with parameters that we thought made sense for us and that were fair even if they might be exceeded in the marketplace."

Lowell said he was optimistic he would re-sign with the Sox for "90 percent of the negotiations," but he likely faced some uncertain moments late in the process after the Yankees and Phillies reportedly made four-year offers. Also complicating matters was the reported Monday deadline the Sox set for Lowell to accept their offer.

In the end, Lowell passed on the chance to set the market in order to remain where he's most comfortable. "I can't say that I'm upset with the situation—I mean, how can you be upset with the money that I'm going to be making in the next three years?" Lowell said. "I always expressed how much I enjoy playing here in Boston with my teammates and my manager and all the fans and I don't think that's changed a bit…there were definitely things that were considered and not everything about the whole process was easy. I'm glad with the way things have ended.

"I've had teammates in the past that have gone on to other places and sometimes they have second thoughts because they took more money elsewhere. I just didn't think my happiness should just be bought by dollars."


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE

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