Red Sox’ Success Hinges Upon Lingering Contract Issues With Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez


March 31, 2010

Red Sox' Success Hinges Upon Lingering Contract Issues With Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez Players entering the final years of their contracts can either be a goldmine in terms of production or a clubhouse cancer, but nobody likes to go out quietly.

With three key cogs' deals ending after this season, the Red Sox are hoping for more of the former than the later if they want to bring home the Commissioner's Trophy in October.

Josh Beckett has dominated the contract talk during spring training, and his battery mate, Victor Martinez, isn?t likely to come cheap, either. Even slugger David Ortiz will be playing for his future, as the Sox hold a $12.5 million team option for next season. Sometimes, in the most fortunate cases, that pressure brings out the best in a player.

There are players like Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, who — during his 2004 campaign with the Dodgers — slugged an NL-leading 48 dingers to go with 128 RBIs and a robust .334 average. He turned that season into a five-year, $64-million deal with the Mariners. Beltre never hit 30 home runs, 100 RBIs or the .300 benchmark before or since. His best average since ?04 was .276.

Things can go wrong, though, when contracts talks stretch into the regular season. If a player prefers to sulk instead of channeling his frustration into on-field performance, it could spell trouble for the Red Sox.

Red Sox Nation shouldn't expect too much dismay from Big Papi. The man knows that, unless some new birth certificate shows up, he isn?t getting any younger, and this is his last chance to secure any kind of security in a deal. During the second half of last season, Ortiz finished in the top three in the AL in both homers and RBIs, but he?ll need to replicate that over an entire season to stand a chance of earning the full $12.5 million next season. Still, Ortiz is a professional, and his contract should be the least of Boston's worries.

Beckett?s future is the one that has been heavily debated. After fellow ace John Lackey earned a five-year, $82.5 million deal this offseason, Beckett earned a benchmark for what he should expect to be paid.

Unfortunately, reports say the club is unlikely to offer a fifth year to Beckett, but neither side wants to talk about it during the season.

But much like a pest problem or a bad relationship, ignoring the situation doesn?t make it fix itself.

Beckett may not want to talk about it, but do you think the right-hander is deaf to what everyone is saying? If he lets the talk get to him, who knows what could happen to his performance?

Even worse, what if he holds out for the fifth year and it negatively impacts his output in 2010? He could try to protect himself instead of pressing the clutch to the floor and ratcheting his game into top gear. Sure, three aces on the staff sounds like good protection, but if your most proven playoff workhorse is pitching scared in October, you have no chance to win the World Series.

The two sides may be close to a deal, but they better get it done quickly if everyone wants 100 percent of Josh Beckett as soon as possible.

As for Martinez, the Joe Mauer megadeal could make things easier for him. There will be no more speculation of the Twins' MVP catcher replacing him, but now where does he stand on his contract?

While even the most inebriated Red Sox diehard at the Cask ?n Flagon would be hard-pressed to argue that V-Mart deserves $20 million a season, don?t you think those big dollar signs have flashed before his eyes and made him think a little more about his own value?

The good news about Martinez is that the Sox are more likely to see more out of their everyday backstop as he attempts to even approach Mauer?s deal. Twenty-five round-trippers, 110 RBIs and an average over .300 are well within his reach, if he can stay fresh and still get in around 150 games.

Beckett needs his deal completed ASAP, or the elephant in the room will start to stink in the heat of the summer. He is now one of the faces of the franchise, and if the big dog isn?t happy, then nobody?s happy. An unhappy Beckett, and the whole team can expect a few extra rounds of golf this October.


From now until Opening Day, will run down 25
that need to happen for the Red Sox to win the World Series.

April 1: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey all make at least 30 starts apiece.

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