The Red Sox confirmed yesterday what everyone knew to be true. Even after getting shelled in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Tim Wakefield remains a bargain too good to pass up.
At roughly 2:20 p.m., the Sox announced that they have exercised Wakefield's contract option for the 2009 season. By doing so, they guaranteed the 42-year-old knuckleballer a base salary of $4 million next year and triggered another option for 2010.
Since 2005, Wakefield's contract has contained a unique provision, a "regenerating" option at the end of every year. Every time the Sox pick up the player's option at the end of a season, the club instantly gains another for the subsequent year.
Wakefield finished the season 10-11 with a 4.13 ERA, but he was second only to Jon Lester in innings and was a victim of poor run support during the middle of the season.
Said manager Terry Francona when assessing Wakefield's season immediately after the Sox were eliminated from the postseason, "I think wins and losses are - at times that can be deceiving. And I thought with Wake's year, it was deceiving."
Wakefield's 2009 campaign will be his 15th with the club since he joined the Sox in 1995. His 164 career victories with the Sox rank second on the all-time list, behind only Roger Clemens and Cy Young (192 each).
Yesterday marked the second day players were eligible to file for free agency. Alex Cora and David Ross joined Jason Varitek in filing Thursday, and Sean Casey, Bartolo Colon, and Curt Schilling did so yesterday. Schilling has yet to decide whether he will play in 2009. Meanwhile, the Red Sox continued touching bases with players who filed Thursday.
Agent Scott Boras declined to confirm that the Sox were one of six teams who immediately contacted him after free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira formally filed, but the Sox are expected to make Teixeira one of their primary targets.
Unsurprisingly, the bidding for Teixeira could be steep. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels are also believed to be in the hunt for Teixeira, a 28-year-old switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate. Major league rules prohibit teams from discussing financial terms with free agents until after the final full day of filings Nov. 13. Until that time, teams can only express their level of interest in the player along with any other pertinent matters, like potential roles.
While the Red Sox have interest in re-signing Varitek, one baseball source indicated the Texas Rangers would be willing to part with catcher Gerald Laird, in whom the Sox had an interest last offseason. Texas has an obvious need for pitching to go along with catching prospect Taylor Teagarden, whom one scout suggested is already a strong defensive player.
There is no indication that the Sox and Varitek have had substantive discussions since the end of the regular season. It could be that the sides differ greatly as to Varitek's value on the open market, suggesting the catcher almost certainly will field offers from other teams later this month.