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Jason Varitek, who has squatted more times behind the plate than any catcher in Red Sox history, was reduced to getting on his knees and praying the team would resign him. He should be thankful to get a contract that pays him at least $8 million over the next two years, which is above market value for a catcher at his advanced age - he'll be 37 in April - with rapidly diminishing skills. Had the Red Sox not needed a catcher, Varitek would still need a job.
The contract has a 2009 base salary of $5 million and contains an option for 2010 that would pay Varitek $5 million if the team exercised it or $3 million if does it. He can earn an addition $2 million in incentives next season based on the number of games he starts with the first plateau at 80. But rest assured, he will not earn a penny of those incentives because the Red Sox will acquire a catcher next winter who will supplant Varitek as the No. 1 guy.
There is no guarantee Varitek will start 80 games this season even if he remains healthy, which is certainly no guarantee for a 37-year-old catcher nagged by injuries in recent years because his body started to break down due to the rigors of the position. The Red Sox will probably decrease his workload because of his age, and it stands to reason he would see even less time behind the plate if the switch-hitting catcher doesn't produce at the plate. Remember, there were three occasions that Varitek was yanked for a pinch hitter in the playoffs last October.
Backup catcher Josh Bard, who is also a switch-hitter, doesn't have a noodle for an arm like Varitek and would see more action behind the plate if he hits. The Red Sox like Bard so much, they acquired him twice. The first time, he was Tim Wakefield's personal catcher at the start of the 2006 season. But he had so much trouble handling Wakefield's knuckleball, the Red Sox traded him to San Diego to reacquire Doug Mirabelli, who had caught Wakefield almost exclusively from 2002-05. So it's more likely that Varitek will be bouncing around behind the plate when Wakefield is on the mound. And because catching Wakefield can be a mental and physical grind, Varitek will need more time off.
In spite of Varitek's teammates gushing over the way he handles a pitching staff, there is a part of me that was surprised the Red Sox resigned him because catcher was the one position the team had to upgrade this offseason. There's still a chance they could do it between now and the start of the regular season, or even after the season starts.
Varitek is a prime example that baseball is the most recession-proof industry. Given the market value for aging catchers in the twilight of their careers, the Red Sox still overpaid to retain him when you consider other catchers around the same age who project to be just as productive that will make considerably less than Varitek.
Some believe the Red Sox made Varitek essentially beg for a contract as a way to get back at his agent Scott Boras after he used the Red Sox to get Yankees to sign first baseman Mark Teixeira to a $180 million contract. But don't blame Boars. He was just doing what his client wants.
In Varitek's case, it was clear he wanted to remain in Boston. The Red Sox knew that and still paid him more than he was worth.