Is Pedro Martinez worth as much as Curt Schilling?
The Red Sox think so, and Martinez may need to agree if he wants to remain in Boston.
The Sox have offered Martinez a financial package similar to the multiyear contract Schilling signed last November to join Martinez as one of the most dominant 1-2 punches in the game. In their preliminary proposal, the Sox offered Martinez a two-year, $25.5 million contract with a $13 million option for 2007 and $2 million in potential performance bonuses, according to sources who are familiar with the terms and are aligned with neither side.
The major difference between the contract Schilling signed and the team's offer to Martinez is the criteria for exercising the option for 2007 and achieving the $2 million in bonuses. Schilling cashed in on a one-of-a-kind provision that allowed him to trigger his 2007 option and collect the $2 million by helping the Sox win the World Series. Since Major League Baseball banned such clauses after mistakenly approving Schilling's, the Sox substituted a provision that would link Martinez's option year and bonus money to the number of innings he pitches and how he finishes in races for the Cy Young Award.
Martinez, who so far has left Boston's proposal on the table, expects to receive more lucrative offers once teams other than the Sox can begin discussing financial terms with him Friday. The Yankees, for instance, are one of several teams that already have contacted him to express serious interest, and he anticipates their offer topping Boston's, according to a source close to his camp.
But it remains to be seen how much it might take to lure Martinez away from Boston, which he has called home since 1998. His agent, Fernando Cuza, and Sox officials declined to comment.
Since Martinez has entered free agency for the first time and has indicated his next contract may be the last long-term pact of his career, he is widely believed to be seeking at least three years, or preferably four, guaranteed. Considering his pride and sensitivity to being disrespected, he is unlikely to be thrilled with Boston's initial proposal. Yet the Sox may have insulated themselves against charges that they lowballed the three-time Cy Young Award winner by offering him a deal that effectively matches Schilling's contract.
Martinez, 33, has made no secret he expects to be compensated as well as pitchers of his caliber. And Schilling has approached Martinez's excellence, going 132-71 with a 3.24 ERA while holding batters to a .236 average since the start of the 1997 season. Martinez is 134-45 with a 2.43 ERA in the same period while holding opponents to a .203 average.
But Schilling turns 38 Nov. 14, and Martinez could argue that five years are a lifetime for a major league pitcher. Martinez's brother, Ramon, for example, retired at 33 in 2001 because of shoulder woes. Schilling will be 40 at the end of the 2007 season, Martinez 35.
When Schilling expressed his desire in September for the Sox to re-sign Martinez, he said he was honored that Martinez referred to him at the time as the team's "No. 1 ace."
"I would love to be considered a better pitcher than him," Schilling said. "That would be great, but you [prove] it on the field. He's five years younger than I am, and if you look at our career numbers, we're pretty close. If he pitches until he's my age, he's going to do things that might have never been done."
Martinez earned $17.5 million this past season as he completed a seven-year, $90 million agreement with the Sox. He was the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history, and he has acknowledged he expects to earn less per year in his next contract. But the question remains, how much less?
The Sox praised Schilling last year when he bargained for less than the amount he initially was expected to seek: $30 million over two years with a $15 million option for 2007.
"It was Curt's goal that his deal not adversely impact the competitiveness of the franchise," principal owner John W. Henry said at the time. "We had the same goal."
The Sox have similar financial goals this offseason as they also try to retain Jason Varitek, a free agent who is expected to seek as much as $10 million a season over four or five years. The Sox also would need to replace Derek Lowe if he departs via free agency, and would need another shortstop if Orlando Cabrera signs elsewhere as a free agent.
Since Martinez is considered the top free agent starter, he may set the market this winter for his classmates, including Lowe, Brad Radke, Carl Pavano, Eric Milton, Russ Ortiz, Kevin Millwood, and Matt Clement. The market may have dropped since 2000, when the Rockies signed Mike Hampton for eight years at $121 million and the Yankees agreed to pay Mike Mussina $88.5 million over six years. But there remain teams willing to dig deep for front-line starters, as the Angels demonstrated last winter by signing Bartolo Colon for $51 million over four years.
For what it's worth, the oddsmakers seem to believe Martinez will stay with the Sox. WagerWeb.com yesterday made the Sox the favorites to open the 2005 season with Martinez, setting the odds at 1-3. The odds on the Yankees landing Martinez were 2-1, followed by the Mets (3-1), Giants (4-1), and Marlins (5-1).
The Sox have until Thursday to negotiate exclusively with their free agents, though none are expected to sign with the team by then. Martinez and his fellow free agents will be free to begin negotiating with other teams Friday. . . .
The Sox said Schilling is expected to undergo surgery Tuesday to repair the dislocated peroneal tendon in his right ankle. Sox medical director Bill Morgan planned to perform the surgery at Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center with a team that includes Dr. George Theodore, a specialist who heads the foot and ankle service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Schilling was due to be evaluated yesterday by the doctors, but the appointment was postponed to today because of scheduling conflicts.