On Wednesday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the acquisition of infielder Julio Lugo and cash considerations from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Chris Duncan and a player-to-be-named-later or cash considerations.
"We felt that Julio could help our club by improving our middle infield depth," said Cardinals' Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak. "He gives us another right-handed bat and provides Tony with additional flexibility. We're optimistic that he will respond positively to a fresh start here in St. Louis."
Lugo, 33, was batting .284 with a home run and eight RBI in 37 games for the Red Sox this season, including a .333 average against left-handed pitching. Lugo made his last appearance on July 6 before being designated for assignment by the Red Sox last week.
A veteran of 10-plus seasons, Lugo owns a career batting mark of .271 with 78 home runs and 187 stolen bases. He swiped 33 bases for the Red Sox in 2007 and had a career-best 39 steals in 2005 for Tampa Bay.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Lugo was drafted by Houston in 1994 and began his big league career with the Astros from 2000-2003. He has also played for Tampa Bay (2003-2006), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2006) and Boston (2007-2009). Primarily a shortstop, Lugo has also played second base, third base and the outfield.
Duncan, 28, was optioned to Memphis (AAA) after Tuesday night's game. He was batting .227 with five home runs and 32 RBI for the Cardinals this season.
"Chris Duncan was drafted and developed by this organization, and in addition to being a talented player we all recognize him as a high-quality individual," said Mozeliak. "He was an important part of our World Championship club in 2006. I know I speak for our entire organization when I say that we are grateful to Chris for what he has given to the Cardinals and our fans."
Walton’s take – Show me the money!
One huge unknown factor in this deal is the money and potential other player involved.
After eating a considerable portion of the contract they gave former Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria, the Sox turned right back around and signed Lugo to a four-year free agent contract before the 2007 season worth at least $36 million.
His salary this season and next is $9 million per year. There is also an option for the 2011 season at the same amount that would vest if Lugo has 2,400 plate appearances from 2007-2010 and 600 plate appearances next season. However, Lugo has fewer than 1100 PAs during this period so far due to injury, so that 2011 option seems unreachable.
Since the Sox had designated Lugo for assignment last week, they may have been prepared to eat most or all of Lugo’s contract. Duncan is making less than 10 percent of Lugo - at just $825,000 this season as he avoided arbitration with the Cardinals in January.
Update: Depending on the source, the Sox will indeed cover either all or almost all of the $13.5 million remaining that is due to Lugo on his current contract, making this a good deal for the Cardinals from a financial perspective. On the baseball side, it is more unclear given Brendan Ryan's recent solid play at the shortstop position.
Note: A poster on our busy message board shared advance notice of the impending trade earlier Wednesday morning. Join our community now to be on top of all Cardinals news, majors and minors.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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