Risk on 'Tek looks good for Red Sox

January, 26, 2009
Spring training is almost here, and Jason Varitek -- so recently the captain of the best team on Earth -- is still looking for a job. Will he find one? According to Rob Bradford, the clock is ticking

    WEEI.com has learned from a source close to the negotiations that the two-year offer made by the Red Sox to catcher Jason Varitek is for $5 million for the first year, along with a club option for $5 million or a $3 million player option for season No. 2 of the deal. It is believed incentives would be part of the agreement. The Red Sox have set a deadline for Varitek to accept the offer, although it is not known what the date has been set.

    On Saturday, Buster Olney of ESPN.com described negotiations between the Red Sox and their long-time catcher as being stalled. Olney described the impasse between the Sox and Varitek (as well as agent Scott Boras) as a result of Varitek's continued requests for the sort of money that the catcher might have received through salary arbitration:


    Of course, Varitek has little leverage to ask for such a figure, aside from the notion of team loyalty to its captain. There remains no apparent market for the catcher besides the Red Sox' interest in bringing him back on their own terms. The fact that another team would have to part with a draft pick in order to sign the catcher, coupled with a career-worst offensive season by Varitek in 2008, has rendered known interest from any club besides the Red Sox virtually non-existent. Moreover, the catching market as defined by salary arbitration (a process that is typically slow to account for adjustments in the economic environment) no longer exists.


    Through this all, the Red Sox have never given any indication that their interest in bringing Varitek (who turns 37 on April 11) back is anything but genuine. Club CEO and President Larry Lucchino reaffirmed that interest on Friday. Now, the Sox have made an offer to back that claim. Whether it will be sufficient to end a complex negotiation with a longtime franchise staple remains to be seen.

I do believe the Red Sox are sincere about wanting to bring Varitek back. I also believe they're sincere about not wanting to spend $12 million for the privilege. The Red Sox took a calculated risk when they offered Varitek arbitration: If he'd accepted, they would have been on the hook for at least $10 million and perhaps more than $12 million. But I think they figured Varitek and Boras would figure they could get more if he were to become a free agent. Essentially, it was a battle of risks, and it sure looks as if the Red Sox will win this one, in the sense that they'll wind up getting what they want: either a cheap Tek or no Tek at all.


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