While everyone in the baseball world waits for the holdup in this Mike Lowell fiasco to be resolved, there are a lot of third parties with a strong rooting interest in the matter.
There are a lot of different angles here. Every fan of the Red Sox and Rangers has a stake in this. So, too, do the agents of Lowell and Rangers catcher Max Ramirez. So do Terry Francona and Rangers manager Ron Washington.
But what about Casey Kotchman?
You haven't seen many headlines this winter about Kotchman, the 26-year-old first baseman who's bounced around to three different teams in the past two seasons, settling in Boston after the trade deadline this summer. But Kotchman has as big a reason as anyone to keep up with the Lowell news that unfolds this week. He'll be keeping his phone on, gluing his eyes to the TV and watching that rumor mill like a hawk. His job might depend on it.
If Lowell goes, then Kotchman becomes the Red Sox' starting first baseman for 2010 by default. It's not a job he's guaranteed to keep — and considering the recent rumors we've heard about a pair of Adrians, Beltre and Gonzalez, there's a good chance he won't — but Kotchman becomes the incumbent. If all else fails, and no one arrives on the scene to supplant him and join Kevin Youkilis in the Red Sox infield, then the first-base job falls to Kotchman.
It would be a big jump for a young infielder who hasn't quite proven that he's ready for it. Kotchman has spent the last three seasons teetering on the brink of "regular first baseman" status — he's never played 150 games in a season, but since 2007, he's averaged 135 games played, and he's hit .279 with 11 home runs and 29 doubles a year. He's not a star, but he's definitely fringe-starter material for a contending team.
Kotchman hasn't quite found job security yet. Throughout his early twenties, he was seen as the first baseman of the future in Anaheim, but the Angels grew tired of waiting for his power stroke to come around, opting instead to give up and ship him to Atlanta as part of a deadline deal for Mark Teixeira. Then the Braves bailed on him, too, shipping him to Boston a year later as part of the Adam LaRoche wheel-and-deal effort.
There's a chance that in Boston, he's found a more permanent home. But in what capacity, it's hard to say.
Reports surfacing last week indicated that Kotchman, who made $2.885 million last season, is likely to be tendered a contract by Boston's front office. With less than six full seasons of major league service time under his belt, Kotchman is still a cost-controlled asset of the Red Sox, and it would behoove the Sox to keep him around until they have a stable plan to move on without him.
In two months with the Sox after this summer's trade deadline, Kotchman didn't get many chances to prove himself. In 95 plate appearances, he hit .218/.284/.287, relegating himself to the end of the bench. He ended up making just one plate appearance in the ALDS against the Angels, his former team.
But Kotchman deserves another chance to prove to the Red Sox what he can do. And if all else fails and he ends up in the starting lineup on Opening Day, he'll get that chance.
That may not be a popular option. And it may not be that likely. But it's certainly a possibility, and one on which the Red Sox are keeping a close eye as this Mike Lowell story continues to unfold.