Nov 9, 2009, 5:44 PM EDT
Torn up Monday was baseball’s one truly unique contract.
And, arguably, one of the most foolish.
In April 2005, a then 38-year-old Tim Wakefield made a deal with the Red Sox that gave the team a one-year, $4 million extension for 2006 and $4 million in perpetuity after that. The Red Sox had exercised those options religiously through 2009 and only hesitated on pulling the trigger for 2010 based on Wakefield’s recent back surgery.
So, the Red Sox and Wakefield got together for another incredibly amiable round of negotiations and came to a new agreement that gave the knuckleballer a multiyear deal for the first time since he wrapped up a three-year pact in 2005. Wakefield is guaranteed $3.5 million in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2011. He will earn $5.5 million next year if he makes 30 starts and $3.5 million in 2011 if he pitches 160 innings. So, if he stays healthy, he could beat the $8 million he would have earned had the Red Sox simply kept exercising their options.
Amazingly, the $5.5 million figure would be a career high salary if Wakefield could reach it. His previous high salary was $4.67 million, from the final year of that three-year deal that ended in 2005.
Wakefield has won 16 games four times in his career. He has 11 seasons in double figures in wins. He’s seventh among active pitchers with 189 wins and eighth with 1,979 strikeouts. Through all of that, he’s earned a mere $50.495 million, according to Baseball Reference data.
Now, sure, that should be enough to pay for a nice house and at least a year and a half at a decent university. But it’s less than the Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka ($51.111 million). It’s less than Darren Dreifort received in his five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers signed after 2000. He was 39-45 at that point and 9-15 from then on. It’s a small fraction of the $124 million that Mike Hampton has received while racking up 148 career wins.
The Red Sox have been accused of paying too much attention to the bottom line during Theo Epstein’s regime, but in this case, they appear to be rewarding a player whose loyalty has left him with a smaller wallet than he would have had otherwise. No, Wakefield was never a candidate for a $50 million deal — there’s just too much suspicion about that knuckler — but he should have been making at least $7 million-$8 million per year in his upper-30s. To give him some added security now was a nice gesture.
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