Varitek Had No Choice
- Jason Varitek agrees with the Red Sox to a 1-year, $5 million contract with options for the team ($5 million); and the player ($3 million) for 2010:
Almost identically to the negotiations after the 2004 season in which the Red Sox assuaged Jason Varitek’s singed pride for their refusal to give a no-trade clause by naming him team captain, Varitek accepted the Red Sox final offer just as the team sends out word that there wasn’t really a deadline. To me, that’s a little backtrack for Varitek to save face not just in the clubhouse and throughout baseball, but in the mirror as well. In the end, Varitek had no choice whatsoever but to accept the Red Sox offer or basically retire because the idea of him sitting out this year in a stubborn staredown as he did when coming out of college was so ludicrous that it shouldn’t have been taken seriously as anything more than a would-be tough guy having his last moment of the supposed relentlessness that has been a hallmark of Varitek’s career.
Did anyone believe that Varitek was going to sit out for the 2009 season and then return next year? Did he and agent Scott Boras think that this ploy would somehow work and get him the money he was missing out on in this deal after he stupidly declined the Red Sox offer of arbitration? If he sat out this year and returned next year, he’d be 38-years-old and returning after a year away from the game entirely. Someone would sign him, but it would probably be a minor league deal contingent on him showing some skills in spring training; and believe me, guys leaving the game and returning to perform anywhere close to capably is a rare occurrence and for a catcher, it’s almost impossible to see happening.
Varitek couldn’t have seriously thought that the Red Sox would’ve released him in spring training to save money had he accepted arbitration; he couldn’t have imagined that they would really go into the spring with Varitek as their catcher and not having filled the hole with a potential heir apparent and then invited the ire of the fans and other players by dumping the captain of the team because of his salary, could he? This whole thing was a roll of the roulette wheel that was undone both by the economy and Varitek’s declining production.
Now his reputation is intact by “winning” something in the negotiations as the Red Sox shied away from the idea of a deadline, and he’s back with the only team he really wanted to play for. This is going to elicit sighs of relief for the Red Sox fans who love Varitek for his contributions off the field, but at mid-season, if the Red Sox are getting even less production from Varitek than they got last year, will there still be the giddiness there is now? Or are they going to look back and say that it was clear that Varitek was rapidly declining into a part-time player and they should’ve made a deal for a replacement whether Varitek came back or not? Let’s say that Varitek’s numbers improve from last season (and they should), but is that going to be good enough for a Red Sox team that needs more offense to account for the season-long absence of Manny Ramirez and that they’ve done nothing to replace that irreplaceable bat?
This move is making everyone happy now on January 31st, but what will be the reaction on July 31st if Varitek is hitting .230 and playing only four games out of seven in favor of George Kottaras and Josh Bard for the other three games? Will his “leadership” be seen as such an important factor then if the Red Sox are in third place in the division behind the Yankees and Rays? It may have been the easiest thing to do in bringing Varitek back, but for a team that prides itself on its coldblooded rationality and adherence to what’s best for the team on the field, it could be seen as a departure from that winning formula and wind up being a mistake because it’s a very real possibility that Varitek simply can’t play anymore; then the Red Sox are going to have the same problem, but with fewer options to solve it than they have now.
- Mets should lock John Maine up with a long-term contract:
The Mets and John Maine avoided arbitration with an agreement on a 1-year deal for $2.6 million. Maine will still be eligible for arbitration after the next two seasons and then a free agent after the 2012 season. As a young pitcher who the Mets essentially stole from the Orioles for Kris (and Anna) Benson in one of Omar Minaya’s best trades, the Mets should start serious negotiations to lock up the soon-to-be 28-year-old with a long term contract.
Maine has shown the potential to be an 18-20 game winner and despite running up large pitch counts in the early innings, his stuff is so good and he’s so hard to hit that he’s worth the gamble to avoid further acrimony through arbitration and keep him for two or three years of his free agency eligibility. Maine is also coming off of a shoulder injury, but if he shows that he’s healthy and impro
ves his control during the early part of the 2009 season, and begins to mature into the wicked stuff and great potential he’s shown since joining the Mets, they should approach him about a long-term deal. He’s well-liked in the clubhouse, has become something of a mentor to Mike Pelfrey, and it doesn’t hurt that he wasn’t all that bothered by the pressure of the post-season in the 2006 playoffs and he’s exactly the type of guy that would cost twice as much on the market if they had to find someone to replace him.