Jason Varitek Re-Signs with the Red Sox
There seemed to be two competing sayings about value at work in the negotiations for catcher Jason Varitek.
The first saying goes something like this, "there are two types of value: real value and perceived value."
The Red Sox front office are big on real value. They are Moneyball men (with lots of money). The Red Sox front office know the stats. They know the facts. Bill James is famous for his theory on the declining production of catchers over the age of 32. Theo Epstein was definitely aware that Varitek's OPS for his career is more than 100 points higher at Fenway than on the road. Larry Lucchino was aware that Varitek's stats on the road were average to mediocre at best. John Henry was probably aware that from a business standpoint - the Red Sox were bidding against themselves for Varitek.
Yet the Red Sox front office gave Jason Varitek a 4-year, $40 million contract.
This brings us to the second saying on value - "there are two types of value: what something is worth to me and what something is worth to you (the other teams in baseball)."
Jason Varitek was definitely worth more to the Red Sox than to any other team in the league.
Jason Varitek has been called the "heart and soul" of the team so many times that it is no longer arguable. Varitek's preparation has been credited by the pitching staff for their success to the point that they have much more confidence with Varitek behind the plate than anyone else. The Red Sox ended up paying Varitek lots of money for his "intangibles".
There was also the fact that there really wasn't any alternative. If the Red Sox failed to sign Varitek - who could they turn to? Brent Mayne or Paul Bako?
So yes - according to stats and to actuarial tables the Red Sox both overpaid Varitek and gave him too many years on his contract but to the Red Sox it was definitely worth it.
Red Sox Catcher Flotsam and Jetsam:
- Red Sox uber-consultant Bill James invented the win shares method but I think that Varitek helps expose a glaring weakness in how the system values catchers. Varitek was fifth in the AL among catchers last year in win shares (he had 17). You could make valid arguments that all four of the catchers above Varitek are better than Varitek but how can you make the argument that Javy Lopez is a better defensive catcher than Varitek (5.1 defensive win shares vs. 4.6)? The win shares method does a poor job in evaluating a catcher's worth to the defense and to the pitching staff and I wouldn't be surprised if James is working on ways to correct this problem.
- With Wade Miller in the fold - there is a real possibility that Time Wakefield may start the season in the bullpen. Where does that leave Doug Mirabelli? Last year he acted as Wakefield's personal catcher (a move that rested Varitek every fifth start). Varitek is a switch hitter and does good against lefties (.826 OPS for his career) but Mirabelli does VERY good against lefties (.909 career OPS with a HR once every 15.5 AB). Maybe Francona will rest Varitek against lefties?