Less was more for Lowell

He deemed Boston most valuable place

Email|Print| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / November 21, 2007

Thirty seven and a half million was enough for Mike Lowell.

The Red Sox third baseman cast aside bigger and better offers (the Yankees, Phillies, and Dodgers all were reportedly in the hunt at one time) to stay in Boston and accept three years.

Lowell, whose deal became official yesterday, took part in a conference call with Sox general manager Theo Epstein and spoke about his happiness at returning to the Red Sox.

"I enjoy Boston," he said. "My family enjoys Boston. Secondly, the Red Sox organization does everything it can to win a World Series - for my career, that's a big factor. Thirdly, before this contract I had financial security, so I like to believe that I'm not all about money.

"I feel like I'm more of a baseball player than a businessman. I kind of weighed where I felt comfortable and where I'd have the best chance to win a world championship. Plus, we just won and I played with a set of teammates that are unparalleled and the fan base is unbelievable.

"I really don't believe everything should be about money. I've had teammates in the past who have gone to other places. Sometimes they have second thoughts that they took more money elsewhere. I didn't think my happiness should be judged just by dollars."

Yet the temptation was there.

Media reports had Lowell linked to a four-year deal with the Yankees to play third base, which quickly shifted to first base after it became clear Alex Rodriguez was going to return. Just before the Red Sox-imposed deadline was about to expire, the Phillies, after professing that they were adamant about not going after Lowell, stormed in with a four-year offer at about $50 million. Lowell said no to that.

All the while, Lowell's agent, Sam Lev inson, was trying to squeeze another year out of Epstein, but Epstein wouldn't budge.

Even during yesterday's conference call, Levinson, attempting humor, posed as a Staten Island Advocate reporter and asked Epstein, "Would you please consider giving Mike a fourth year?"

Epstein responded, "Sam, I've heard you ask that before. We're going to hold off. We're very happy with the contract that we signed Mike to and we look forward to a great three years. We appreciate the interest."

Lowell, who was the World Series MVP and finished fifth in voting for AL MVP, didn't dismiss the Yankees, the organization that he had come up with as a young player before being dealt to the Marlins. He said he owed the Yankees a debt of gratitude for the many coaches and managers who helped him get to the big leagues. But once the Yankees wanted him to shift to first base, his interest diminished.

How tough was it to walk away from the four-year offers?

"It wasn't tough in the sense that I knew I wanted to play in Boston, though I wanted to play for four years," he said. "The tough part was four years with other teams/three years with the Red Sox.

"But I can't say that I'm upset with the situation. How can I be upset with the money I'm going to be making and the chance to compete for a world title?

"I always expressed how much I enjoyed playing here in Boston with my teammates, my manager, and all the fans, and that hasn't changed a bit, so I'm actually looking forward to working hard this offseason and getting myself ready for spring training.

"There were definitely things that were considered. Not everything about the whole process was easy.

"There were things that were considered. Definitely. The amount of money that was left on the table . . . I didn't really struggle with it, but I was thinking, 'Is guaranteeing that fourth year something I should really pass up?'

"The analysis I did with my family is, you look at the cities and you look at the teams, you see where they fit, and you compare that with the way you feel and the way you fit with the Red Sox. So ultimately my fit and my comfort level, family, and my team in Boston outweighed those other options.

"It was tough. There were very generous offers being made. And I was very appreciative of the teams that contacted my agents and myself."

Lowell said he was flattered by the affection of the Boston fans, some of whom held up "Re-sign Lowell" signs at the parade.

"I feel the fans have embraced me and I've embraced the fan base of Boston," he said. "I've enjoyed playing in Boston since the first day I was traded, so I'm thrilled to remain here for three more years."

Epstein said signing Lowell was a big part of the offseason plan, and he now will concentrate on the bullpen and the bench. He also said he appreciated Lowell taking less money to stay.

The Red Sox purchased the contracts of first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter from Triple A Pawtucket and shortstop Argenis Diaz from Single A Greenville.

Carter, 25, was acquired Aug. 21, 2007, from Washington to complete the trade that sent outfielder Wily Mo Peña to the Nationals Aug. 17. The lefthanded hitter batted .234 with one homer and four RBIs in 12 games with Pawtucket.

Diaz, 20, spent all of last season in Greenville, hitting .279 with two homers and 40 RBIs in 99 games. The righthanded batter was signed as an undrafted free agent in July 2003.

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