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First reported on Friday, the Red Sox have decided to retain Casey Kotchman for the 2010 season. Kotchman, acquired from the Braves for Adam LaRoche in July, made $2.8 million in 2009 and is under team control through the 2011 season. The team will still need to sign Kotchman or face an arbitration hearing, but the Red Sox under Theo Epstein have been very good about reaching a deal with players before arbitration. The first baseman, once the centerpiece for the Angels to acquire Mark Teixeira, could play an important role in determining the roster for next season.
Through six major league seasons, Kotchman is a career .269/.337/.406/.742 hitter who has walked almost as often as he has struck out (157 BBs vs. 166 Ks). With the ability to play a good first base, Kotchman gives the Red Sox the option of moving Kevin Youkilis to third should the Mike Lowell to Texas trade go down. However, if Lowell remains in Boston, Kotchman would likely see most of his playing time against right handed pitchers (.275/.350/.410/.760) as he has struggled against southpaws (.250/.312/.313/.625).
As a bench player, Kotchman will provide the Red Sox with a defensive replacement to take over first base late in the game while not embarrassing himself at the plate should his spot in the lineup reach the plate. Given the uncertainty surrounding Mike Lowell’s health, from his recovering hip to his injured thumb, spinning LaRoche to the Braves for a player they could control not only for the remainder of the 2009 season but for 2010 and 2011 as well was a smart move. Could they have used LaRoche’s power surge at the end of the season? Maybe, but by that point both Mike Lowell and David Ortiz were contributing at the plate and Francona was already having a tough time making room for everybody.