Free Agent Stock Watch: Jason Varitek

Oh no! It’s a Yankees blogger talking about the Red Sox! He’s gonna be all biased and junk! While I’m sure I’ll get some of that in the comments, I think talking about Jason Varitek‘s impending free agency is a worthy topic for this slow Saturday. So, what are we looking at for the 36-year-old backstop?

You know where I’m going with this. After the 2007 season, a 36-year-old Jorge Posada signed a four-year, $52.4MM contract. This was on the heels of Posada’s best season, .338/.426/.543. Can we expect something similar for Varitek, who will turn 37 at the beginning of the 2009 season?

The short answer: no. I understand that Varitek means a lot to the Red Sox as a team. But does that really justify giving him a four-year deal? In my opinion, no. Then again, Varitek is the same season-age as Jorge, so maybe he’ll be looking for a three-year deal. But even then, do the Red Sox want to match Jorge’s yearly salary of $13.1MM?

Red Sox fans might kill me, but once again I have to say no. If I showed you Player 1 and Player 2, without identifying them, and asked you to tell me who has had the better career, you’d pick Player 1 without question. I’d even factor in that Player 2 plays demonstrably better defense. It’s still a landslide.

Varitek is off to a quiet start this year, hitting .256/.301/.449. I expect he’ll bring those numbers up, as he had a similarly slow start last year, yet finished at .255/.367/.421. But you have to wonder how much longer he’s going to hold up. Tek was great from 2003 through 2005, but hasn’t been able to reach the same levels over the past two years. And while he’ll rebound this year, it’s doubtful his OPS+ will be much more than 100.

So what would you pay for a league average hitting catcher for his age 37 through, say, 39 seasons? I figure the Red Sox will end up matching his previous deal, only three years this time around. So three years, $30MM. But it’s not like the Red Sox don’t have the resources to add a fourth year.

Posted by Joe Pawlikowski.


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