Why I Think Jason Varitek Might Not Return

Pedro Martinez had a very frank interview with Michael Silverman today. It is an absolute must-read. Read it. Click the sentence I just wrote, the red sentence, and it will take you to the interview. As a matter of fact, if it comes down to this column or Pedro’s interview, I choose the interview. Read the interview. I was going to post some snippets of this interview on here, but I can’t. I wasn’t able to narrow it down to the more valuable snippets. So go read it all.
There is one snippet that I read that really impacted me though, because I had been mulling over this for quite a while. Something in the back of my brain, nagging. Is Jason Varitek really going to return? Even though all signs point to yes, theres just something in me that says ‘no’.

Q: Who do you think they’re going to re-sign?
A: I have no idea, but they’ll be stupid not to do Varitek. Varitek is the next one gone. Theo’s going to have the biggest problem with him.
Q: You think he’ll be gone?
A: (Laughs) I hope he is gone.
Q: Why?
A: I hope ‘Tek is on my team.
Q: Mike Piazza won’t be happy to hear that.
A: I do want Piazza, too. Piazza is a good hitter. We can move him to first or somewhere. I would like every good player that is out there to be on my team. I want ‘Tek. ‘Tek is a good player, a good catcher.

Last we heard, the to-be 33-year old catcher, Jason Varitek, is asking for four years and anywhere from $40 to $44 million. He is asking for a no-trade clause, also. This is a big sticking point for the Red Sox, even though an automatic no-trade clause would kick in in two years. Once you have been in the major leagues for ten years, you get a 10-5 no-trade clause. Ten years in the majors, five with the same team. Varitek has been in the majors for eight years, and eight with the Red Sox. The 10-5 clause allows you to choose whether or not you want to be traded. If you do, you forfeit the no-trade clause because you have to start all over with a new team up to five years. Apparently, Varitek wants the security of a no-trade clause for ages 33 and 34, and this is very important to him.
Pedro said that Varitek would be Theo’s greatest challenge, and I agree. Pedro said that if the Red Sox had given him three years a week ago, he would still be a Red Sox. (Lord, how I wish he still was.) It’s not going to be that easy for the Sox and Varitek. All signs point to the Red Sox and Varitek agreeing to a four-year deal but still ironing out the money and the no-trade clause provision. From what I have heard, Varitek and the Sox are $1-2 million annually apart on money, which is significant. So to say that the Sox and Varitek are close is a stretch. They are not close.
I’m surprised no team has really jumped in the bidding, but that can change in a nanosecond, as we are all quite aware of. There are other teams out there willing to give Varitek four years. A no-trade is much less likely, but at this point in time, we have to assume that if Varitek does leave and a GM is smart enough to not give him a no-trade, then it is because Varitek has had enough of the Red Sox. Now, most free agents leaving the Red Sox in the last couple of years have said that the new ownership and Theo just didn’t try enough, didn’t do enough, didn’t want anything to do with them. Is there something here, or isn’t there? It’s something to monitor.
I can’t really justify why I think Jason Varitek will leave. We certainly have enough money now, no question about it. Jason Varitek is an elite catcher who can bang out offensively, is a solid defensive catcher, is a great leader, and calls a great game. He is the total package, which is why I think he’s the best catcher in the game. I would concede Ivan Rodriguez if I was challenged, but certainly no other catcher comes close when it embodies the total package.
Perhaps it’s just me at this point, very fustrated with how the off-season has gone, but here are the teams I can quite conceivably see Varitek head to.
Chicago White Sox: I am not alone in this sentiment. There’s just too odd of a fit here for it to be discounted. I think that the White Sox have a great shot at getting Varitek. They don’t really have a catcher … they aren’t shy about spending money … they need offensive output to replace Carlos Lee and Jose Valentin … and Ken Williams is dumb enough to offer a no-trade clause. Call me crazy, but I see Varitek switching sock color.
Seattle Mariners: Well, we know Seattle likes to spend money. Varitek would be “coming home” to Seattle, from which he departed. They don’t really have a catcher either. Dan Wilson is a backup at this point, and Miguel Olivo … the jury’s still out on Olivo. Seattle seems to think the answer lies in signing offense, not pitching. And Bill Bavasi is without question dumb enough to give a no-trade clause.
New York Mets: Pedro’s there. The Mets are a crazy organization that wrecked the pitching market with their contract agreement with Kris Benson, overpaying and thus making every other organization overpay. Minaya likes to make splashes, and ‘Tek coming to New York would make a splash. The Mets’ first baseman would be Jason Phillips right now and while Piazza isn’t a great first-baseman, he would be enough at this point in time, and definitely if Varitek came to New York. Yet another GM dumb enough to give a no-trade.
Houston Astros: What if the Astros lose out on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes? They’ll look to sign someone who can help out on offense. Brad Ausmus is their no-hit catcher although he does have good defensive and game-calling skills. Still, Varitek is the whole package and the Astros would have money. They’re not dumb enough to give ‘Tek a no-trade (at least I don’t think so) but if the Astros get involved, it means that it is getting late in the off-season and Varitek might be willing to drop the no-trade clause.
Los Angeles: In desperate need of a catcher. Has money. Might … just might give a no-trade clause. Probably the front-runner excluding Boston at this point.
While I certainly do want the Red Sox to resign Jason Varitek, quite honestly, I just can’t at this point in time see it happen.

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