There’s been some discussions going on in the media recently about the Red Sox getting some contract extensions done before the season begins. I’m all for it, provided they are reasonable deals. Among the names I’ve heard as candidates for extensions include: Terry Francona, Jason Varitek and Jonathan Papelbon.
I listed these talks in order of importance. Francona is a great manager for the Sox. Is he the best in-game manager in baseball? No. But is he incredibly good at handling the players, the press, and the front office here? Absolutely. Without equal. So I say throw him a 3-4 year extension at about $3-4M per year. The Sox don’t overpay like some of the teams out there, and Francona gets a huge raise. Win-win.
Next up, the captain himself, Tek. Varitek is unquestionably the position player who contributes the most outside of his batting line. His scouting and preparation are legendary, and they give invaluable confidence to our pitchers in addition to a tactical edge. Even at age 36, Tek is still a serviceable catcher and an above-average bat at his position. However, that looks to change within the next year or two. A player of Varitek’s stature demands a deal worth at least $8M a year, if he’s willing to take a pay cut. And in the wake of Jorge Posada‘s monster 4-year, $52.4M deal this year, I don’t know if that’s reasonable to expect.
Tek seems to be open to an extension, and why wouldn’t he be? Playing for a two-time World Champion in a place like Boston is a dream job for most players. Sean McAdam seems to think he wants a deal longer than two years, possibly four. And with Scott Boras as his agent, you know things will get dragged out. On the bright side, Varitek has gone over Boras’ head in the past in the interest of getting a deal done.
The Sox don’t have a lot of other options in the cupboard. Dusty Brown, George Kottaras and the like are not going to be ready for Fenway for a long time. Kenji Johjima will likely be a free agent after 2008, but Tek stays in very good shape, he says and does all the right things, he is our captain. And that is worth a lot. I’d be willing to go two years and $22-24M on him, and at the end of 2010, if he can still squat, we can talk about another deal then.
Papelbon is without a doubt our closer of the present and the future. There’s no way we should fail to pay him a fair amount for what he does, but there’s also no reason to sign him long-term until we get to arbitration. I know a lot of teams have been doing it this year; it’s fashionable to sign your Troy Tulowitzki or your Ian Kinsler real early. But what if you sign a guy, and an injury ends his career that year? You’ve effectively locked in money you didn’t have to commit yet. I’m all for giving Paps a generous raise (to $1M or so) on a one-year deal. Then maybe next January, lock him up.