MLB: AP source: Red Sox, Varitek reach agreement
AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) – The Red Sox are keeping captain Jason Varitek.
A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the catcher has reached a preliminary agreement with Boston on a $2 million, one-year contract. The person spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal is pending a physical and no announcement had been made.
The 38-year-old Varitek has spent his entire major league career with the Red Sox after making his debut in 1997. He batted .232 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in a substitute role last season, when injuries helped limit him to 39 games.
In other news, the Red Sox declined to offer 2011 contracts to pitchers Hideki Okajima, Taylor Buchholz and Andrew Miller, making all three free agents.
Varitek backed up All-Star Victor Martinez this year. Martinez became a free agent in the offseason and agreed to a $50 million, four-year contract with the Detroit Tigers.
Varitek can earn another $300,000 in performance bonuses: $100,000 each for 60, 70 and 80 games started at catcher.
The Red Sox hope he can serve as a mentor to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a 25-year-old switch-hitter who hasn’t lived up to expectations since reaching the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 2007. Boston obtained him from the Texas Rangers on July 31 for two minor leaguers, a player to be named and cash.
Saltalamacchia had trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher at Triple-A before the trade. The Red Sox hope bullpen coach Gary Tuck, known for his ability to work with catchers, can help solve that problem and turn Saltalamacchia into an everyday catcher.
Varitek always emphasized that handling pitchers and playing defense were his primary responsibilities. His career highs are 25 homers and 85 RBIs in 2003, and a .296 batting average in 2004. He has a .258 career average with 182 homers and 721 RBIs.
He broke his foot on July 1 and returned to the lineup Sept. 7. He played only five games after coming back, going 0 for 13 before his single in Boston’s final game.
After that game, he said he “absolutely” wanted to stay with the Red Sox. Asked about his legacy, he said, “I don’t know if I can really answer that, but all I can be is appreciative of being here, my time here, my teammates, the organization and, importantly, the fans.”
The 34-year-old Okajima was an important part of Boston’s bullpen the past four seasons, going 16-8 with six saves and a 3.06 ERA in 254 games. The left-hander was 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 56 relief appearances this year.
Buchholz was claimed off waivers from Toronto last month.
Miller, drafted sixth overall by Detroit in 2006, was obtained from Florida on Nov. 12. The 6-foot-7 lefty was 1-5 with an 8.54 ERA in nine games (seven starts) for the Marlins this year.
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Mike Fitzpatrick in New York contributed to this report.