Inbox: Beckett extension on horizon?
Beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions
Will the Red Sox sign Josh Beckett to an extension before Spring Training? I think he is gone if they do not. Any word?
-- Ray C., Londonderry, N.H.
The Red Sox and Beckett have both indicated they have interest in extending their relationship beyond 2010. Spring Training is a time in which general manager Theo Epstein has often talked with the agents for players entering the final year of a contract. I see no reason why that wouldn't be the case this time around. It seems like the market has been fairly well set for Beckett with the A.J. Burnett contract with the Yankees a year ago and the deal Boston just signed John Lackey to.
Beckett was right up there with those guys in terms of his body of work the last several seasons. Beckett did sign a club-friendly contract with the Red Sox in August 2006, and this next contract is going to be the biggest he has signed and probably will sign during his career. That said, I could see the sides discussing a deal this spring, but tabling it until either later in the season or once the season is over. If Beckett has another season like he did in 2007, that could boost his value quite a bit. If I had to make a prediction right now, I'd say a contract does not get done during Spring Training. However, this is a player who has a really good relationship with the organization, so I don't think that would be a bad sign for the future. I think the club would very much like to keep Beckett in a Boston uniform beyond 2010. These things just take a while sometimes.
Has Boston considered the possibility of letting Lowell prove his health during Spring Training while exploring trades for David Ortiz? Big Papi is a fixture of the Red Sox, but he hasn't been himself for quite some time, and Lowell could really contribute in a designated hitter role.
-- Chris F., Portland, Maine
Don't forget that David Ortiz has a full no-trade clause because he is a 10-five man (10 years in the league, at least five with his current team). As much of a fixture as Big Papi is in the community and as much as he loves Boston and playing there, I don't think he would approve a trade. This is the last guaranteed year of his contract, so I think the Red Sox are willing to ride it out, particularly for the first couple of months. Theo Epstein said the day after the season that if Ortiz is going to be Boston's full-time DH in 2010, he needs to be a "force."
I think Lowell would be very disappointed to be a DH at this stage of the game. He has always enjoyed playing defense and would like to prove to teams that his mobility has improved a year after hip surgery. Lowell comes to Spring Training as a very good insurance policy for the Red Sox, should Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis or Adrian Beltre suffer any kind of health setback.
Are salaries for baseball players public knowledge? For example, everyone talks about the Mets paying $66 million over four years for Jason Bay. Is that just a rumor or estimate? How do people know for sure what he got? Is there an MLB rule that teams have to divulge exact details of every player's contract? Can I look up any player's contract on a database somewhere?
-- Kevin S., London, UK
The Red Sox have a club policy of not revealing the contract terms for their players. Some teams are less private about this. Either way, a reporter can almost always find the information on newly signed contracts if he or she performs enough due diligence. There is a great Web site called Cot's Contracts that lists every contract team-by-team. Here is the URL if you want to check it out. http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/.
With Jacoby Ellsbury now in left field and Mike Cameron in center, who is going to be the fourth outfielder? Is there any possibility of Johnny Damon coming back to the Red Sox? I know he can't play every day in the field, but that's why I think it wouldn't be a bad move.
-- Ben W., Arlington, Ma.
The Red Sox have Jeremy Hermida as their fourth outfielder, and they are optimistic about what he can bring to the table. Bill Hall is another player who will see time off the bench in the outfield. Damon isn't a fit at all -- not from a salary structure standpoint or otherwise. The last thing Damon wants to do is be a backup. And the Red Sox have pretty much spent their allotted budget for the winter.
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-- Steve M., Duncan, Okla.
Dice-K has done a good job improving his English each year. When Farrell or Varitek makes a trip to the mound, they speak mainly in English and Matsuzaka knows the context of their message. Farrell and Varitek also took some Japanese lessons, but from what I understand, most of the communication is in English. Martinez only caught Matsuzaka once last season, so I'm sure those two will spend more time together this spring to make sure they are on the same page.
Now that the Red Sox have secured free agent Adrian Beltre, there's all sorts of buzz about Lowell being traded. I suppose a few teams, maybe the Angels or the Athletics, could use a third baseman; so what do you think the Red Sox could potentially get?
-- Andrew R., Northborough, Ma.
If or when the Sox trade Lowell, it will probably be for a medium-range prospect, similar to the deal with the Rangers for Max Ramirez that fell through. Obviously Boston is going to be responsible for a large chunk of Lowell's $12 million salary for 2010.
Do you think the Red Sox will go after Joe Mauer next season or go get another power hitting player?
-- Jeff B., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Mauer is a once-in-a-generation catcher who I think all big-market teams will make a significant push to acquire. From Boston's standpoint, much of its interest could be related to what transpires with Victor Martinez, who is also eligible for free agency at the end of this season.
I have not heard anything about Tim Wakefield. Is he still going to be a starting pitcher for the 2010 season?
-- Judith P., Chesterfield, Ma.
Wake is recovering nicely from back surgery. Before making any determination on his timetable for 2010, the Red Sox will take a look at him in Spring Training. Obviously, Boston has six established starters for five spots. If everyone is healthy and ready to go at the end of Spring Training, it is possible Wakefield could spend some time in the bullpen. But the Red Sox haven't made any determinations like that at this point. Their first priority is to get Wakefield back to full health.
Is there any talk on the horizon of getting Jonathan Papelbon under an extended contract like they have done with Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester? It may be cheaper, and obviously would avoid free agency.
-- Stephen M., Lynchburg, Va.
Papelbon has been on record many times saying that he is willing to go year-to-year until he is eligible for free agency. The Red Sox control his contractual rights for the next two seasons. I'd be surprised if the Red Sox sign him to a long-term deal before that. It seems like both sides are happy to let this one play out and see where it takes them.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.