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Update: Varitek Offer Expires Saturday

Well, now we know. Jason Varitek's two-year offer -- if you can call a one-year deal with mutual options a two-year offer -- expires Saturday night. According to the Boston Herald's Michael Silverman, it's been out there since the end of last week, so the Red Sox are giving their incumbent catcher a full week to decide on whether to accept it or not.

The most interesting developing take on the situation, however, may come from the Globe's Tony Massarotti, who claims that the more people he talks to, the more he feels that Varitek will try to get Boston to drop the second year options. That flies directly in the face of everything the catcher has openly campaigned for all offseason -- financial stability and peace of mind in knowing where he'd land -- but it makes a lot more sense from a financial standpoint; if he has a monster season, he can re-enter the free-agent market, when the market may bear higher salaries and more teams might be willing to take a chance on an aging catcher.

It probably won't happen, but hey, it might.

Despite discussion, internal debate and outlandish demands, the Red Sox never officially made an offer to their team captain, Jason Varitek. That all changed yesterday, when the Boston front office reportedly extended a one-year, $5 million contract that contains mutual options for a second year.

According to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, the second year options run for $5 million on the team's part and, if they decline, $3 million on Varitek's side. That makes for a maximum combined value of $10 million (assuming there are no hidden incentives that haven't been disclosed), a number which is all but assuredly less than the catcher would have received in arbitration with the team, and option he declined before Christmas.

But now there's an additional consideration complicating matters: The Red Sox' offer has a deadline.

Varitek met with team officials last week, but there's no word on whether that significantly helped clear the air. One thing is certain: Varitek has drastically misjudged the free agent market, and he's now stuck choosing between an offer that he clearly feels slightly insulted with or, equally drastic, no deal at all.

That's because no team -- yes, really no team -- outside of the Red Sox has expressed any interest in the catcher whatsoever. There was scuttlebutt early in the offseason that the Mets were interested in signing Varitek if they could trade incumbent backstop Brian Schneider to the Red Sox themselves. That rumor was quickly dispelled by Mets brass, and little has popped up about anyone else even considering his services, whether as a backup or starter.

Finally, this situation may represent a game of chicken between a Scott Boras client and a team that knows the market won't bear what he wants, where Boras himself may have to cave. Make no mistake, this isn't like last winter's Alex Rodriguez negotiations between the All-Star third baseman and the Yankees. That impasse was broken by A-Rod himself, who came clamoring back to the Yankees, notably without Boras by his side.

While Varitek has met with the Red Sox on his own, he has yet to stray from Boras' trust, and he refused to place any part of the blame for the duos apparent miscalculation in market demand on his agent.

So what's going to happen? Varitek wants at least two years at the terms he would have received in arbitration. He's coming off one of the worst hitting seasons in his career, batting .220, and he hasn't hit .280 or better since 2005. Put the numbers together, and there's no way Varitek is getting the deal he wants.

Will he take the deal he's been offered? He better, and quickly. There's never been more opportunity for the Red Sox to pull the trigger on a trade, with the Rangers making one of Jarrod Saltalamachia or Taylor Teagarden available again. The Red Sox love both those prospects, and they love Arizona's Miguel Montero, too. If Varitek doesn't sign by their deadline, look for them to move quickly on a trade.

If that happens, with Josh Bard already on the team's books, the Varitek era in Boston may be over, and there's no sign of where a new Varitek era might begin.

By Cameron Smith  |  January 27, 2009; 12:27 PM ET
Categories:  Red Sox  
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Next: Another Free Agent Swallows Hefty Paycut

Comments

I don't know what Varitek was thinking. Who wants a 35 year old catcher with bum knees? He calls a good game and some leadership then provides little else. On a new club, his leadership is diminished. I hope Boras is tasting his own bile right now but I doubt it.

Posted by: mjwies11 | January 26, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Up through, say the end of December, one could sympathize, a bit, with players and agents. Who knew 30 teams would get rational, perhaps for various reasons, at once? Who knew that the economy and the post 'roid era would combine so completely as to cut the "value" of over 30 players in half? That said, the meetings came and went. The real plus free agents got deals. Burrell and others got the message. What makes these guys think it is still a seller's market for 35 year old, down side catchers? February may be the cruelest month for some of these boys.

Posted by: advocate2 | January 26, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day, 30 teams getting rational all at once was called "collusion".

Posted by: driggs1 | January 26, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Most teams would not think of signing Variek due to the draft pick compensation issue, but at least a couple will not have to give up higher than a 3rd round pick if they were to sign Varitek.

ATL has a protected first and has already signed a type A in Lowe, so would only have to give up a 3d if they wanted Varitek to be a back up to McCann. He'd be going back to where he went to school. They did sign David Ross already, so probably they have no need for Tek, but the compensation would not be too steep if they became disenchanted with Ross.

The NYY would only have to give up a 4th because they have already signed 3 type As. As it stands, they have the 29th pick due to their failure to sign Cole from last year's draft, and another supplemental later on for their failure to sign their 2d round pick. So, in effect, they have 2 picks locked in the first four rounds even if they signed a 4th Type A. So if they think Tek is an upgrade over Jose Molina, or if they are nervous about Jorge beign able to catch, then Tek might be signable. Would they want him? He might provide some insights into CC's weaknesses (the Sox have pounded CC). Would he want them? Perhaps if he is steamed at a low ball offer.

Less likely teams that don't have a need at this time but would be able to sign him if they decided to trade a catcher might be Colorado and LAA. LAA has two fine catchers on the roster - Napoli and Mathis. Conceivably there is a trade market for either. If they moved one and signed Tek, they would only have to give up the last pick in the 2d round. They have already surrendered their first round pick for Fuentes. Because they already have 2 first rounders and two supplementals for the loss of K-Rod and Teixeira, I don't see compensation being an issue (just need). Similarly, Colorado looks set at catcher with Iannetta and Torrealba. Were they to find a taker for Torrealba, then the they would not think the compensation for another type A to be too high. Their first round pick is protected, and they have LAA's first and a supplemental for Fuentes.

I am also not taking into account whether ATL, LAA, or Col has a high minors catcher they could use as a back up were they to move their current backups.

I have a hunch that, if he does not sign with the Red Sox, he signs with NYY.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 26, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Tek's production has dropped off significantly over the last 3 years, as would be expected for a 35 year old catcher who's caught 130+ games in 8 of the last 10 years. Last year he banked 9 million to put up a line of 220/313/359.

That's about what Brian Schneider, Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Redmond put up. Those guys made 4.9million, 3 million and 950k last year.

So 5 million for Tek is market rate or better for one year. Factor in a 3 million dollar buyout and you're looking at 8 million for one year (if the Sox let him go, which is doubtful).

Past performance is no reason to keep someone around and overpay. Especially when the player hasn't had an above average offensive season in 2 of the last 3 years and is showing significant signs of wear and tear. It's great to keep them around from a fan's point of view because it reminds them of the "glory days" (as a Braves fan I know all about this), but from a front office view it doesn't.

The Red Sox, of all front offices, know this and won't pay a ridiculous premium for Tek. They are probably slightly overpaying for him just because he's only the 3rd captain the Sox have had since 1923.

And for all the talk of his defense, the guy caught a whopping 20% of base stealers last year, and averages only between 20-25% for his career. And you can't blame that all on Wakefield.

He might make a good platoon, but the guy was absolutely dreadful from the left side of the plate where he put up a 201/293/323 line. He can still hit right handed, putting up a 284/378/484 line, but he only had 95 at bats right handed. Not to mention he had 3 months out of 6 where he hit below 200 and 3 months where he didn't have a slugging over 300.

All in all, he's lucky to get a 1 year/5 million dollar contract in this market.

Posted by: adampschroeder | January 26, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for not posting some ridiculous pun like "Varitek, Veritock," Cameron.

Heck, I'm mad at myself for even bringing it up.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 26, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

AdamPSchroeder - the toughest thing to gauge in Varitek's value is his ability to call games and work with pitchers. That's what the Sox have to put a number on. Also, the reason they are interested in Montero and Salty is that they can face a lot of the RHP this year. Maybe not all, but enough to keep Tek's at bats down from his weaker side.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 26, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

"AdamPSchroeder - the toughest thing to gauge in Varitek's value is his ability to call games and work with pitchers."

I guess what I think about this common response is: 1) most pitches get called from the dugout nowadays and 2) it's incredibly overrated and not worth a extra 2 million.

The Red Sox, as a team, over the last 5 years (going from 2002-2008) gave ranked 7, 17, 11, 24, 26, 2, 9th in MLB. If Varitek's ability to call a game makes so much of an impact, why are they all over the place in terms of team ERA? It's because of the quality of PITCHERS.

Javier Lopez was derided as one of the worst catchers in MLB for many years. But his teams finished (from 2000-2003) 1st, 3rd, 1st and 12th. Why you ask? Three answers. Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz. So why'd they drop to 12th in 2003? Because Maddux and Glavine showed signs of age and Smoltz moved to the bullpen.

Posted by: adampschroeder | January 26, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

One more thought about the Red Sox's maneuvering: When a "hero" leaves town, they have been known to play the media and rumor mill to minimize the hit. They certainly let the traveling secretary story out last year with Manny, then the story about asking for an MRI on his knees, and that he had lost several veterans ... All true, but about the only thing directly in front of the public was the fight with Youkilis, which they did not talk about. By the time he was out the door, the public was conditioned. Similarly, the let rumors about Derek Lowe and Orlando Cabrera's lives circulate as the reasons for not resigning them. Nomar said last year when Manny was traded that no one ever leaves there with out taking a PR hit. At this point, the market is conditioned to allow him to go. Again, look at all the Boston.com web surveys.

Adam - I do think Tek calls his own game, but you are right that it still takes talent to pitch well, regardless of the catcher. I was just focusing on another part of his game that some put a value to (or overvalue, as you put it).

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 27, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

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