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Impact of Boston's Youkilis Extension

When the Red Sox didn't sign free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, many analysts said the team would immediately turn to locking up its own arbitration-eligible players. That was seen as a smart move, but one which the Red Sox might have been reluctant to do, given their success in working around arbitration in recent years.

Well, times have changes. After signing MVP Dustin Pedroia to a similar four-year six-year (nice catch AANats) extension earlier this offseason worth $34 million (before the Teixeira deal, in fairness), Boston inked Kevin Youkilis to a four-year, $40 million extension yesterday, a move that ran directly contrary to what Youkilis' agent had openly expected earlier in the offseason.

As with Pedroia's deal, it appears that Youkilis is leaving money on the table to sign with the Red Sox. And the deal gets even better for Boston, which holds a $14 million option for a fifth season of Youkilis at the end of the contract. Locking up the versatile first/third baseman narrows the field of Boston's young, unextended to commodities to one, with Jason Bay a likely target for extension talks before the season (outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury won't get a long-term extension for two primary reasons: 1) he's too young to establish a relative market value and, 2) he's represented by Scott Boras).

Why are the Red Sox locking up their young players after such a strong season? Part of the answer to that question is in the question itself. Clearly, Boston feels that the guys who contributed to an ALCS run despite all the team's injury problems proved that they're valuable members of the organization. But as much as that, some of the motivation to sign them now may have to do with the economy. With the value of players' contracts going down -- the inability for a number of prominent names to get new deals only undermines that, as we pointed yesterday -- Boston can get agents to negotiate since there's concern that the value of contracts may continue to drop. From a player's standpoint, the last thing you want is to head into free agency in a season when no teams are spending money.

Because of that, the Red Sox are striking while the iron is hot, or at least while they feel they can get a deal. That's why you'll probably see talks with Jason Bay heat up before the season and why, eventually, even Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester may have their contracts addressed. That may be unlikely -- the team seems more willing to negotiate Papelbon on a year-to-year basis because of his high market value as a closer -- but it's certainly not impossible the way owner John Henry and GM Theo Epstein are planning this year.

By Cameron Smith  |  January 16, 2009; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Red Sox  
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Next: Hamels Signs Extension With Phillies

Comments

Cameron - there is that fellow Papelbon that they have not extended. Just guessing, but he may be a more important target than Bay. Although you could argue that closers are replaceable, it might make sense to sign him for multiple years while the market is a little depressed. Bay, OTOH, might not be a guy that they lock up. If given a choice, Bay or Holiday, I'd think the Sox will prefer Holiday. Power shortage. I forget Holdiay is a Boras guy, though.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 16, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Did not read to the bottom. Oops.

The Red Sox really have not had an important young bullpen guy go into arbitration during the Henry / Epstien era. It's hard to know what their strategy will be.

I think they have reassessed the Moneyball / Jamesian notion that closers are highly replaceable since 2003. Look at the big money they were willing to pay Foulke. You could argue that Foulke proves the folly of signing a closer long - they only got one effective year from him - but I think that they may view Papelbon a bit differently. Most importantly, they know him. They have precise physical measurements on his shoulder and arm and know the wear and tear better than they would for an outside pitcher, regardless of MRIs and health history they would receive from the agent. They also know he is quite capable of handling the pressure of Boston sellouts in a pennant race (maybe not New Yankee Stadium, but Mo has had trouble with Boston, too). They do have internal options in development (e.g., Daniel Bard) but some of those are trade bait and none are projected to be in Papelbon's class.

I think their discomfort with going more than 3 years on a pitcher may have more to do with letting JP go through arbitration one time. If they feel his shoulder is strong enough, I could then see them buying out 2 years of arbitration and one year of post arbitration, with a 4th year option.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 16, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

A little thing: Cot's Contracts shows Pedroia having signed a 6-year extension, not a 4-year, valued at $40.5M.

$1.5M signing bonus; 09:$1.5M, 10:$3.5M, 11:$5.5M, 12:$8M, 13:$10M, 14:$10M, 15:$11M club option ($0.5M buyout)

http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/2004/12/boston-red-sox.html

Posted by: AAANatsinRVA | January 16, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

It's not really accurate to say any Arbitration eligible player is "leaving money on the table" when they sign extensions. The whole point of signing these extensions is that they are beneficial to both player and management. That's why they almost always buy out a couple years arbitration years and a couple free agent years.

The player has guaranteed money (is it really leaving money on the table if you take a lower paying job with actual guarantees instead of a higher paying job that will only last for one year?).

Management on the other hand ensures that they don't have a Ryan Howard like situation where the player destroys them during the hearing.

A far more interesting tid-bit in the linked story and I'm shocked it wasn't mentioned:
"The Sox have never gone to an arbitration hearing since Theo Epstein was named general manager after the 2002 season."

The Sox avoiding arbitration has nothing to do with Teixeira or the economic "woes" of Major League Baseball, it's just what they always do.

This does indicate 1) they have a tremendous understanding of their players' worth and 2) they don't low-ball on one year deals. The fact that they are perennial winners certainly helps and is an important point particularly when you compare the transactions of the Red Sox with the Nationals/Orioles).

My question: Are there other ownership groups that haven't going to arbitration? Just from a chemistry standpoint avoiding arbitration has got to be a huge plus.

Posted by: noahthek | January 16, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

i think you're going to see the sox play hard ball with papelbon. if you look at the market for closers right now, you're talking about giving papelbon something like 3-4 years at 12-15 million per. i don't think the red sox operate in a way that would have them think that is a good idea.

he's really good, i'll give him that. and if the red sox do decide he's worth it then i have no qualms about that, but i don't think they're going to be going out and spending mariano rivera type money to keep papelbon, which is what he's going to be commanding. they're not even paying any of their starters over 10 million a year (i'm not factoring in matsuzaka's posting fee).

Posted by: adampschroeder | January 18, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

in regards to the earlier comment about the red sox preferring holliday to bay, i would have to say that i disagree. matt holliday in many ways is a product of coors field.

if you look at holliday and bay's numbers on the road (so you almost completely factor out coors field for both), you see that bay has better numbers. bay's ops is 897 to holliday's 803. bay has 85 homers in 390 games to holliday's 44 in 339.

bay has also played in relative obscurity and doesn't have the name recognition that holliday does. as such, he'll probably be a little cheaper than holliday. but even if you could get them at the same price, i'd take jason bay.

Posted by: adampschroeder | January 18, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Adam - you may be right. I think Holliday's road numbers have improved over the past 3 years (OPS - .819 / .860 / .892), and I think his defense is better (zone rating, out of zone plays). Bay's OPS away over the past 3 years - .925/ .766 / .874. I'm willing to throw out '07 for Bay as an aberration and say they are similar offensively. It is probably a close call and will depend on the relative prices. If Bay came in and said "I'll take less than what I can get as an FA for 3 years, with team options for two more," then I suppose they sign him and don't wait for next offseason. Of course, 2009 will prove a lot for both, as Holliday goes to a tough ballpark and Bay plays in Fenway. Also, if Holliday is a Boras client, there is no way in hell they try for him if Bay will sign for something reasonable.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 19, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

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