When Red Sox pitchers and catchers report for spring training, there will be one player in particular to keep an eye on.
29-year-old right-hander Josh Beckett is entering the final season of a three-year contract extension. He is slated to earn $12.5 million, and the major question is: Will the Red Sox sign Beckett to another extension?
Given the current economic state of baseball, it appears unlikely that the Red Sox will be able to afford another expensive starting pitcher. The Red Sox have already signed John Lackey to a hefty five-year, $82.8 million contract this offseason.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Josh Beckett will be looking for a contract similar to that of Roy Halladay, who signed a three-year, $60 million extension. However, it will be difficult for the Red Sox to sign the right-handed ace to a large contract given the current surplus of Red Sox starting pitchers.
Another issue that could harm the prospects of an extension is Beckett's health issues, including back spasms and lingering elbow pain in 2008. It would be a risky move for the Red Sox to sign Beckett to a long extension.
One can point to the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who the Red Sox have spent over $100 million to bring to Boston. He missed a portion of last season with weakness in his pitching arm, which can be attributed to his participation in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
In 2009, Beckett started 32 games, and he went 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA. Beckett's ERA in Boston currently stands at 4.05, a stat that isn't very impressive. His last two post-seasons haven't matched his stellar 2007 performance, where he went 4-0 in four starts with a 1.20 ERA.
From 2008-2009, Beckett has pitched in 21 postseason innings while allowing 18 runs and striking out 17.
The question is how Beckett will perform in this contract year. It may not necessarily be whether the Red Sox will sign him, but whether how much money he may earn through his performance this season.
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell told MLB.com's Peter Gammons that Beckett will look to have pitch well this season not just because of his contract, but mainly because of his natural competitiveness.
"Sure, I think he's on a mission," Farrell told Gammons. "But not because of the contract. That's the way he is every spring. He's always energized; he is always focused on not getting by, but being great. The contract is incidental."
Will Beckett wear a Red Sox uniform in 2011? It's definitely something to think about during these warm weeks in Fort Myers, Florida.