The Red Sox may not need to worry about Josh Beckett entering free agency. According to The Boston Globe, early negotiations have been productive.
"Hopeful" is how a source characterized talks to the Globe.
While there is no indication as to the amount of dollars and years, the acquisition of John Lackey as a free agent is sure to influence any discussion as the two are very similar in age and performance history.
Lackey signed a five year, $82.5 million deal in the offseason to join Boston. There is protection in the contract in case of injury, at which point Lackey would play a sixth year in Boston for the league minimum salary.
However, Boston may not be interested in committing five years to Beckett. In February, the Globe's Nick Cafardo said it's likely the Red Sox will pursue a three-year deal with Beckett, using Roy Halladay's three-year extension with the Philadelphia Phillies as a barometer.
If such an offer was made, Boston would attempt to incentivize Beckett toward three years instead of five. Any three-year pact would come with a higher annual salary thanks to the lower long-term risk of signing Beckett.
Beckett has pitched 200-plus innings for the Red Sox three out of his four years in a Red Sox uniform, proving to be rather durable. That said, the Red Sox are thought to be factoring in potential injury troubles with Beckett in any offer. Corey Dawkins, an athletic trainer with an interest in baseball and expertise in the field for over 10 years, expressed his concerns about Beckett, saying Beckett is at much higher risk for injury than Lackey.
It is possible that a breakdown in negotiations could come upon Boston's request to factor in health in any contract — something that has made it into the vast majority of Red Sox free-agent signings (and non-signings) as of late.
While most players tend to prefer longer contracts, the three-year deal may end up appealing to Beckett the most. He would make a higher annual salary than if he demanded a five-year deal — and any five-year deal would likely end up in the range of $85 million dollars, like Lackey — and could get back on the free-agent market for his age-33 year, potentially pulling in another high-salaried deal. If that was the case, Beckett would end up outearning any original five-year deal.
The mere fact that both sides are so optimistic in the early stages of working out a contract extension indicates that there are no major disagreements toward overall value — or even total number of years. The Red Sox and Beckett seem to be very sensitive to the current market and are setting out to create the best possible deal for both sides – not for themselves.
Perhaps by the end of spring training, Beckett will be under lock and key for at least three more years, giving Boston a fearsome rotation for years to come.