Fantasy Impact: Josh Beckett Contract Extension a Bad Sign

Peter DouglasCorrespondent IApril 7, 2010

BOSTON - APRIL 04:  Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox sends the ball to first to get Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees out on April 4, 2010 during Opening Night at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Red Sox “Ace” Josh Beckett signed a four-year, $68-million contract extension early this week to remain with Boston through the 2014 season. The signing effectively locked in the bulk of the Red Sox’ rotation for years to come and calmed the nerves of many the Fenway Faithful.

Fantasy owners—and Red Sox fans for that matter—beware.

Momentarily setting aside Beckett’s not-quite-so-lively heater in Sunday night’s opener against the rival New York Yankees—it’s only April—significant doubt nonetheless creeps in when one considers this not-quite-so-ace-like extension.

John Lackey, injury prone and greater in name than in actual performance, commanded $82.5 million over five years just a few months ago. A.J. Burnett, fragile and erratic, landed a deal worth precisely the same amount over five years as well.

Why is Beckett settling for a year less?

Granted, Beckett is making $500,000 more per year than Lackey and Burnett, but a whole year less is a big drop in security for only a small annual raise.

The 31-year-old Lackey is 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA in the regular season and a 3.12 ERA in the postseason. The 33-year-old Burnett owns a 100-85 record with a 3.85 regular-season ERA and a 5.27 postseason ERA.

The 29-year-old Beckett surpasses them both with a 106-68 record and a 3.81 regular-season ERA and 3.07 postseason ERA.

Beckett is younger, has won more games, and has been more effective in both regular-season and postseason games.

Beckett isn’t simply perceived as better. Beckett is better.

Why would a more dominant pitcher accept less money and fewer years?

Remember that it was initially reported that the Red Sox were concerned about Beckett’s shoulder over the long run. Apparently, the front office wanted to avoid signing Beckett to a fifth year because of those shoulder concerns.

However, Beckett passed both the Red Sox medical team’s physical and the insurance company’s physical with flying colors. His shoulder appears fine.

While one never knows how to take the opinions of team physicians, one should be able to rely on the insurance doctors. They don’t like risks.

Again, it begs the question, why would Beckett then settle for less money over fewer years?

Beckett may be loyal, but that’s no reason to accept less than Lackey or Burnett. The economy has changed, but the ink on Lackey’s contract isn’t yet dry.

Everything indicated that Beckett would command an extension at least as lucrative as Lackey’s and Burnett’s.

If I’m in a keeper league, I have to wonder about Beckett.

Beckett alone knows why he settled for less, and if there is reason to doubt Beckett’s shoulder, he alone knows how it’s really feeling.

At the very least, this contract—considered a victory for the Red Sox brass—should cast into doubt Beckett’s ego, his confidence, which is critical to a pitcher’s success.

Does Beckett consider himself less worthy?

Whether it’s Beckett’s shoulder or his head, something made him lower his price.

The Zen master may indeed be so loyal as to accept a hometown discount, but there is more than enough reason to doubt that’s Beckett’s only reason.

Let’s hope loyalty is the answer.