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Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Jason Varitek's agent told WEEI Sports Radio this morning that the free agent Red Sox catcher wants a five-year contract with a no-trade clause -- terms the Sox are unlikely to offer.

The Sox can not afford to meet Tek’s demands, but some club will. (I had to rewrite this a bit given the above development over lunch. Now I kind of know how a real journalist feels.) Varitek is worth $50+ million over five years with a no-trade to some team just not our Sox. As I have said before, nearly all catchers do not age well, even Hall of Famers. Theo should walk away, look for an alternative/replacement for Varitek (see below) and begin the spin cycle, I mean public/fans relations campaign.

Theo needs to meet with David Littlefield soon. Littlefield has been trying to move Jason Kendall’s contract for years now. He has found no takers. Not many clubs budget for a $10 million catcher, but our Sox have likely set aside at least $8 mil. over the next three years.

Kendall is due $9.5 million in 2005, $10.5 in ’06 and $12.5 in ’07. Obviously, Kendall’s commitment is larger than the Sox budget, but Littlefield is desperate to move the contract. It is reasonable for the Sox to trade Minky owed $4.2 million ($3.75 + .45 option buyout) and BK’s salary of $6 million for Kendall + cash in 2006 and 2007. Littlefield will take about anything to get rid of the bulk of Kendall’s salary in 2006 and 2007. The Pirates gain payroll flexibility after next season by moving Kendall.

And the Sox get one of the most underrated catchers in the game. Defensively, Tek’s reputation is better than Kendall’s, but I have no clue how to measure a catcher’s value behind the plate. With the bat, Kendall is just as good as Tek. Kendall VORP over the last three seasons is 119.3 or 10.9 higher than Tek’s. Kendall certainly does not have the power numbers of Tek, but his game is getting on-base with a career mark of 387 OBP and 399 in his two most recently completed seasons. Both catchers have had similar value and it will likely remain that way in the future.

Unfortunately, Kendall’s comparables are just as crappy as Tek’s making both risky investments. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest level of risk, Tek is about an 8.5 and Kendall is a 7. Kendall is less risky because he is younger (31 versus 33) and less of a financial commitment. Kendall is a better investment, all be it a below average one.

If the reports are correct, the Sox will be losing their leader in the clubhouse, which should not be taken lightly, but getting a catcher that will likely be just as productive offensively, another $8.7 million to spend and a first round draft pick isn’t the end of the world.


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