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Anybody else want $39 million?

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  December 5, 2012 09:36 AM

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So, one theory being floated Tuesday was that Shane Victorino had a bad 2012 because he was stressed out about hitting free agency.

Settle down, Shane. The Boston Red Sox are on the case.

We can only imagine what Boston’s newest outfielder might have received were he comfortable with the situation last season. As it turns out, the Red Sox were more than happy to dish out $39 million for a player whose career numbers are comparable to Coco Crisp. Yay?

Look, we all understand the Red Sox’ need to go short-term with free agents, and it’s indeed a welcome process, but I can’t come away from this deal without asking, “Shane Victorino?"

I don’t mind overpaying for Mike Napoli for three seasons, $39 million, mainly because he’ll potentially crush balls at Fenway Park. What does Victorino bring that a Type B free agent – the kind you sign in January – wouldn’t? He’s got the glove and the personality. He had a great OPS (.906) batting lefty against righties last season.

Thirty-nine million?

Hate the contract, not the player. Is that how we should approach this? After all, repeat after me, “It’s not your money,” even though the Red Sox' random spending ways over the years had painted them into a corner relieved only by the power of Magic Johnson. There is, after all, a need to overpay in this free agent market for marginal talent with the limited pool being what it is. If you want players on a short lease, odds are you’re going to have to overpay in order to get them to sacrifice a fourth or fifth season. Just the way it is, and exactly how the Sox should approach it with a crop of young talent grooming.

We get all that. But can you really still wrap your head around a $39 million deal for a player coming off the worst season of his career? Yuck.

The Red Sox have spent $120 million this offseason on David Ortiz, Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Victorino, and David Ross. Is that better than awarding Josh Hamilton a long-term, $175 million deal? Maybe? I’m conflicted.

General manager Ben Cherington is approaching this fix just the way many of us hoped for, without committing to another disastrous long-term contract. And yet, here we are snickering over the players he’s managed to add, despite them being good fits for the transition period. Didn’t we pine for guys like this while Adrian Gonzalez was mumbling idiocies like “People gotta eat,” completely oblivious to his surroundings?

But the prevalent thought was that the Sox would be on the hunt for underappreciated value, and perhaps they still will be in the coming weeks. But as it stands now, the Victorino deal is one of the worst of the offseason. Decent player, by all accounts a great guy. But in what universe would anybody give Coco Crisp $39 million?

Of course, the most intriguing part of this deal will be to watch where Jacoby Ellsbury lands, and what kind of arm he can bring back in return, even though the market for his services is limited at best. Still, just can’t see the Red Sox not receiving some sort of return on the player expected to Boras the free agent market next winter. It’s either sell low, or give him away.

That would put Victorino in center field, and begin the rebuilding process in earnest, with or without Jon Lester. Maybe the Sox then overpay for Cody Ross to play right, and trade one of their 42 catchers for a second or third starter. Maybe this combination of players will even surprise and be a contender in 2013.

After a player like Victorinio gets $39 million, would anything really shock you?

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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