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Wakefield gets 2-year deal

GM Epstein cites payroll flexibility

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 10, 2009

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CHICAGO - Not only will Tim Wakefield be back with the Red Sox next season, he now has a contract for 2011. Not bad for a 43-year-old coming off back surgery.

Rather than pick up another year of Wakefield’s perpetual $4 million option, the Sox yesterday signed him to a two-year contract worth at least $5 million.

Wakefield will make a base salary of $3.5 million in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2011. The knuckleballer could make as much as $5.5 million next season if he makes 30 starts, and he could make $10 million over two years depending on starts and innings pitched. His base salary for 2011 will go up if he reaches innings incentives in 2010.

“It seemed to make sense for both sides,’’ Theo Epstein said during the first day of the general managers’ meetings. “With Wake, it gives him security to be here for at least the next two years. He certainly has some significant Red Sox records he wants to attain in that time span. For us, it gives us a little more payroll flexibility than picking up the option.

“He wants to end his career in a Red Sox uniform and it’s something we’d like to see as well.’’

Wakefield has 175 wins in 15 seasons with the Red Sox, 18 from breaking the franchise record held by Roger Clemens and Cy Young. He also is 11 wins shy of 200 for his career. The two-year deal gives him a chance to accomplish those goals.

“That’s a huge factor for me,’’ Wakefield said from his home in Florida. “They actually came to me with a two-year. We were wondering if they were going to pick up the option again and this kind of negates that. I think this is a fair deal. If I’m healthy, I’ll be able to make about as much as I did the other years. In essence, they gave me a two-year deal and that’s a huge plus for me.’’

Wakefield had surgery in October to repair a herniated disk. The injury limited him to 129 2/3 innings and he was left off the postseason roster.

“My back is great,’’ Wakefield said. “I still don’t have the strength that I need right now, but I can do a calf raise and I can walk on my toes, not that I need to be a ballerina.’’’

Wakefield said he would be “150 percent’’ ready for spring training. “I don’t feel anything from the surgery at all. No more pain. No more limping. No more anything,’’ he said.

Expect this contract to be Wakefield’s last. “I’m done after two more,’’ he said. “That’ll put me at 45.’’

No movement on Bay
The Sox retain negotiating exclusivity with left fielder Jason Bay until Nov. 20. But while Bay has said he wants to stay in Boston and the Sox want to keep him, no deal has been struck.

“It’s not one we’re going to talk much about,’’ Epstein said. “It seems like those deals, when you talk a lot about them and there’s a lot of stuff out there, they don’t get done. They get done under the radar. This is one of those guys we’ll be as quiet as we can. There haven’t been any significant developments.’’

It seems certain agent Joe Urbon will take Bay into free agency, if only to try to get a better sense of what the player’s value is.

“Sometimes it’s hard to sign when you never know what may be out there for you,’’ Epstein said. “We understand. There’s a reason you need to get six years of service before you’re eligible. It’s an accomplishment to get there.’’

Gonzalez not gone
The Sox declined the $6 million option for shortstop Alex Gonzalez over the weekend, but he could remain with the team.

“Alex did a great job for us, Epstein said. “We told him through his agent that we still have interest under the right circumstances.’’

Gonzalez reversed what had been a below-average defense at the position and hit a surprising .284 in 44 games after being acquired from the Reds Aug. 14.

The Sox seem to have similar interest in retaining righthanded reliever Takashi Saito, who had a 2.43 ERA in 56 appearances.

Epstein did not sound as enthused about keeping outfielder Rocco Baldelli and acknowledged that lefthanded reliever Billy Wagner would go elsewhere.

Wagner is a Type A free agent. If he is offered arbitration next month, the Sox will receive two draft picks as compensation once he signs with another team. That was part of the attraction when Epstein obtained Wagner from the Mets in August.

Staff nearly set
Epstein indicated that the Sox would stay within the organization to replace bench coach Brad Mills, who was named Houston’s manager last month.

“It’s something we’re going to work on when we get back from these meetings,’’ Epstein said. “We’re almost certain to hire someone from within our minor league system.’’

It is likely a member of the current staff will become Terry Francona’s bench coach, perhaps first base coach Tim Bogar.

Surgery for Green
Nick Green, who played in 103 games this season, underwent back surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday. The 31-year-old elected free agency when he was taken off the 40-man roster. Agent Tom O’Connell is optimistic Green can land a major league deal as a utility player. The Sox might have an interest. “We want to see what the health is like,’’ Epstein said . . . Outfielder Joey Gathright became a free agent rather than accept an assignment to Triple A Pawtucket . . . Head athletic trainer Paul Lessard was let go by the organization. Assistant trainer Mike Reinold, a member of the staff since 2006, was promoted to the top spot. Pawtucket trainer Greg Barajas will be Reinold’s assistant.

Tony Massarotti of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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