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The Red Sox and knuckeballer Tim Wakefield have signed a two-year deal worth $5 million: $3.5 million for 2010 and $1.5 million for 2011. This was a good decision for both the Red Sox and Tim Wakefield.
Tim Wakefield has been a very good pitcher for the Red Sox. Up until very recently, he was a workhorse who could just eat up innings. He has proven himself to be a fairly reliable 4th or 5th pitcher in a starting rotation, and good starting pitching is hard to come by these days. This deal shores up one spot in their lineup and allows them to focus their attention on other players.
It also was a kind gesture, as the Sox showed loyalty to the pitcher who is currently third on the franchise all-time wins list. He needs just 13 to break the record, and this way he has two seasons to break it. Should he remain healthy (not likely given his recent history), he could probably do it in one season. The Red Sox also benefit from this because they get Wakefield cheaper than he would have otherwise been for the next two years.
Let’s say they get the same out of him next year as they did this year: half a season, then injury. Well, at the very least the organization has saved $500,000 on the stats. Now, the trend of recent seasons of back injury is definitely troubling. But, this lowers the hit they’ll take if injury happens again. At $1.5 million in 2011, even half a season of decent production is getting your money’s worth. Basically, the Red Sox are getting a capable 4th-pitcher for less than they were already paying for him, plus they end up looking like a loyal franchise by giving their aging pitcher two more definite years instead of the perpetual maybe-one-year.
Tim Wakefield gets security out of this deal, and at this age that’s a big deal. Each of his last few seasons have ended prematurely due to injury. Given that trend, there’s no guarantee the Red Sox would continue to pick up his option. Were it to happen again next year, in all likelihood they would part ways. So, given that he’s probably only pitching one more year on his old deal, he’s essentially making $1 million more for the same amount of years. 2011 becomes a bonus for him: if he’s healthy, he’s got a team he knows he’s signed to. If he’s sick of it, he can just retire and save the team $1.5 million for them to use elsewhere. Plus, he gets two more years to try to become the all-time wins leader for the Red Sox, a record that he’s definitely wanted for a while. He also gets two more shots at 200 wins, a figure that will cement his place among a higher echelon of pitchers than the group he is currently considered a part of.
All in all, this is an excellent deal for both the Sox and Tim Wakefield. It could potentially save the Red Sox $3 million if Wakefield remains healthy, and $1.5 million if he doesn’t (and retires after 2010). It provides stability and security to an aging pitcher who is close to several pitching milestones. Also, it makes the organization look loyal to one of the more beloved Red Sox players in recent history. I love the knuckleball, and I’m excited for two more years of it.