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.
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