In an afternoon press conference at Fenway Park, the Red Sox and RHP Josh Beckett announced they have finalized a four-year, $68 million extension that will keep the right-hander in Boston through the 2014 season. The contract includes a $5 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $15.75 million per year from 2011-2014.
For those of you who might find it suspicious the deal was announced on the day AFTER Beckett was roughed up by the NY Yankees on Opening Night, there IS reason to find the timing curious, though it probably isn’t what you are thinking.
I suspect that the timing of the announcement had NOTHING to do with the player and everything to do with the ballclub.
While no one in the front office would ever confirm this fact, I believe it is likely the front office and Beckett agreed to terms several days ago…this, in spite of the fact GM Theo Epstein swears the sides were “tying up some loose ends” over the last few days.
But the fact of the matter is that by waiting to announce the deal until today—coincidentally, a day after the season started—the extension is not included in the luxury tax calculation for 2010. It won’t be counted until next year - after several of the club’s existing contracts (notably, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek) expire.
If the club had announced the deal before the opener, it would have raised his average annual pay in this year’s calculations, potentially increasing the team’s 2010 luxury tax.
No one ever said the Red Sox front office was filled with dummies.
There is no question Beckett could have attained the five-year extension he had requested if he had played this season and entered free agency next winter; but during his afternoon’s press conference, Beckett made it clear he wasn’t especially interested in obtaining an extra year at the expense of his happiness and peace of mind during the intervening years.
While it’s possible he may have signed with a contending team after becoming a free agent, there is no guarantee of that fact. And he values that he will be playing for a team that appears capable of contending for a championship year-in and year-out here in Boston.
Here is a transcript of some of the remarks made by Beckett and GM Theo Epstein during the press conference:
Beckett on why he didn’t hold out for a guaranteed fifth year:
I don’t know, I guess I look at it differently than most people. A lot of people look at what you could lose, or what you lost. I look at what I gained. I gained four years more of stability knowing that I’m going to be in an organization that’s going to put a competitive team (on the field) every year. That really can’t be underestimated… (T)he season gets really long when you’re losing 90 games. When you’ve got a chance to win 100 games every year, the season goes by a little bit faster. I know I’m going to have a chance to win here every year.
Beckett on the fact Epstein contacted him after signing Lackey, and on the importance of signing the extension at the start of the season:
I’ll answer the second question first. I think it’s a lot more likely (the contract issue would) become a distraction for everyone if it’s lingering. I think everybody in our clubhouse knows that there’s nothing worse than people asking you questions about other people. I didn’t want my teammates to deal with that, and I didn’t want to deal with that either. (Theo’s call) meant a lot. (We) actually talked before I left here last year. There was definitely some desire then. For them to sign Lackey and everything like that, for him to reach out…I knew there was no reason for him to do that without some merit to it.”
Beckett on his health:
You’ve just got to put yourself in the best possible position. (It’s all about) the work that not only myself but the trainers and strength coaches do to put me in that situation. Coming over here in 2005, I missed my last start of the season with shoulder stiffness. I’m probably not the first guy to ever do that. It just automatically raises flags because it’s the last start of the season, so people think, “Oh, he’s been shut down, is there something wrong?”. There’s not one guy who you could go out there and grab and take an MRI who has pitched 1,000 or 1,500 innings and take an MRI and it’s going to show up perfect like he’s a 14-year-old boy. Everybody has their little issues…I think the Red Sox (are) not worried about me skimping on things that make me healthy.
Beckett on whether he will remain driven by the quest for another ring:
I think that’s what we’re all striving for every year. It’s a very difficult thing to attain. I would say that with this organization, I think we have a chance to win a ring every year. I haven’t been on one team here—I’ve only been on one team that didn’t make the playoffs here—I haven’t been on one team that I didn’t think we couldn’t, at the beginning of the season, win a World Series. That’s pretty remarkable to think about. I’ve been here, this is my fifth year now here, and in five years, at the beginning of the year, I really had a strong feeling that we could win a World Series.
Beckett on whether he views this as potentially his last contract:
I think that (34) is actually a pretty good age to assess things…I definitely think that 34 or 35 years old would be a good time for me to sit down and really think about, “Is this something I really want to continue doing?" or maybe take a step back and take some time.
GM Theo Epstein on having his current starting rotation under contract for the next five years:
It feels good. It’s hard to have an elite organization without having excellent starting pitching. I think we have an even higher standard here. We need starting pitching that can succeed in the American League East, against the tough lineups that we face night-in, night-out. When you have that starting pitching, you don’t want to let it get away. It’s hard to acquire in free agency. It’s hard to acquire in trades. And it’s hard to draft and develop this kind of starting pitching. Knowing we have Josh and Jon Lester and John Lackey and Clay Buchholz all signed through 2014 means that, while there are no guarantees in baseball, it should mean that we have outstanding starting pitching for that period…and knowing we have that in place, we can focus on other areas.
Epstein on Beckett’s long-term health:
We have outstanding health reports…The commitment that we made today demonstrates that. We kind of put our money where our mouth is. He’s a guy who is insurable. He’s someone who we count on to be as healthy as he’s been. And look at what he’s done for us. He’s been remarkably consistent. He’s thrown as many innings as anybody. There’s not a medical reason why that shouldn’t continue with the work that he’s put in to create a foundation for his success healthwise.