The Red Sox held a press conference at 2 p.m. this afternoon at Fenway Park to formally announce the signing of first baseman Kevin Youkilis to a four-year contract with a fifth-year option.
The ball club did not reveal the financial terms of the deal, but the Globe’s Tony Massarotti and Amalie Benjamin reported Thursday that the 29-year-old Youkilis, who finished third in AL MVP voting last season after batting .312 with 29 home runs and RBIs, will receive $41 million over the next four seasons.
To read the entire transcript of the press conference, as provided by the Red Sox media relations department, click “full entry” at the bottom of the post.
General manager Theo Epstein’s opening remarks:
We’re here to announce the signing of Kevin Youkilis to a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year. This is a great day for the organization. Kevin has been a mainstay for us, a big part of our major league club over a lot of successful seasons and a big part of our future. I think we solidify that with this move today. On a personal level I think it makes us all really happy, too, because Kevin is someone who has worked for everything he’s ever gotten, he plays the game for the right reasons, not for himself but to win for the organization and for his teammates, and to see him rewarded means a lot to all of us. He’s happy, we’re happy, that’s the way contracts should work and that makes this a really significant day and we couldn’t be happier.
Youkilis’s opening remarks:
I want to say thank you to Theo, Tito [manager Terry Francona]. I have the opportunity [to] be guaranteed to play here for another four years, and hopefully for a fifth year, of course. To Mr. Henry, Mr. Warner, Ben Cherington, Jed Hoyer, there are so many people I have to thank along the way who have helped me, my family. It’s a great thing knowing I’ll be here for, hopefully, five years. My wife is from Boston with her family here so that is a major factor in us staying here. My parents and my brothers and all my family members love being here in Boston. They love this place. They enjoy coming to Fenway Park every time and rooting us on. It’s a great feeling to know that I might also have the opportunity to maybe end my career here too. That’s one thing we’ve discussed. I would love to end my career playing for the Boston Red Sox. I always tell them I’m not looking to play until I’m 42 but I’m looking hopefully to end my career here with the Boston Red Sox.
Epstein, on both sides’ ability to get the contract done when it appeared it would not happen this offseason:
I want to credit [agent] Joe Bick and his son, who negotiated the contract on Kevin’s behalf, and then Ben Cherington, who took the lead on this negotiation for the Red Sox. There was a lot of great dialog the whole time. I think the reporter did a good job catching Joe when he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that one morning and that’s how that story broke. [Bick told the Globe Dec. 24 that a deal would not get done this offseason.] In any negotiation there’s going to be periods when there’s progress and periods when there seems to be more of an impasse. We moved the ball along pretty well for a while then it stalled but then both sides moved again in the end. It got done in a range that both sides probably could have anticipated at the beginning of the process. It seemed to be the sweet spot for a deal that made sense for both sides.
Epstein, on the club’s emphasis on retaining home-grown talent like Youkilis:
We’ve made no secrets about our priorities here that we want to develop a homegrown core of talent. We feel like that’s the best way, the only way, to achieve sustainable success year in and year out. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard. It’s hard to keep preaching that message if the only players you give money to are players that you bring in from outside the organization. With the signing of Kevin and the signing of Dustin Pedroia earlier this offseason, those investments really reflect our priorities as an organization and who we want to be, which is a team full of home-grown talent trained in the Red Sox way, and able to compete at the highest level for a world championship year in and year out.
Youkilis, on staying with the Red Sox, the only organization he has played for:
It’s definitely a great feeling. Coming up through the system you never know what kind of path you’re on. You don’t know if you’re going to make it to the major leagues, you don’t know if you’re going to get traded, you never know where it’s going to go. It’s a great feeling just to know that the guys that you’ve seen come up and work really hard and guys you’ve helped, guys you bring up along the way and you tell them something on the field, off the field about how to go about your business and it’s good to see these guys every year getting better. We have so many young guys that are coming up through the system, it’s amazing. When I was coming up through the system, it wasn’t as nice. As Ben will tell you and Theo will tell you, we didn’t really have that great of a farm system when I first came up. It’s amazing now to have all these young guys come up and be able to stay here and play for the Red Sox. It’s really interesting because it wasn’t like this before.
Youkilis, on when he realized he wanted to be here long-term:
I never pictured myself on another team. All my buddies back home in Cincinnati said you’ve got to come play for the Reds, we need a player like you on the Reds, and I said it’s not that easy. For me, I never saw myself on another team. I’ve always seen putting on that Red Sox uniform everyday, putting on that B on the hat. This is home to me. I don’t know any other place other than Boston to come to the field everyday and to live. For me, it’s a great feeling just to know that I can be here and stay here for a long time. I was very happy from day one talking multi-year deals to stay here.
Francona, on the importance of signing players like Pedroia and Youkilis:
It’s exciting. Tying up young players in theory sounds good but they also have to be good enough to handle giving your ball club a chance to win every year and that’s not easy. And now on the right side of our infield, you’ve got a guy that won the MVP, a guy that came in third. Both guys are Gold Glove-caliber players, they both love to win, and we’ve seen them both come through our minor league system so that certainly gives us a huge comfort zone.
Francona, on the progress of Youkilis’s career:
Youk hit a ball in the gap against the Reds, a night game in his first spring training, and he pulled a high breaking ball. And that night Theo and I and Millsy [bench coach Brad Mills] were talking, saying it would be a good time to send him down because he hadn’t pulled a lot of balls with authority and he was a young prospect and we wanted him to go out on a good note. Then in ’04 he’s up and down and he’s up and down, up and down a couple too many times. But every time we brought him back, I never heard him complain. He just kind of tried to learn and it was really impressive because it was obvious we weren’t afraid to use him when he was here. He was just on that shuttle that some guys get on. And every time he went back, he learned and progressed. And now he’s one of the better players in the league. It’s exciting, especially when you get guys that care so much about winning, and then you put the numbers to boot, and the will to be a good player and a good teammate. It does get very exciting.
Epstein, on his comfort level in signing homegrown players like Pedroia and Youkilis to long-term deals:
I think that’s a significant part of it. These guys are both proven, as Tito said. Not only that they’ve proven that they’re two of the best players in the league, but they can do it in this atmosphere. I think they thrive playing their games in this pressure cooker at Fenway Park and they want nothing more than to win a World Series at the end of the year. Anytime you talk about giving players long-term contracts when you don’t have to, you have to consider the risk involved. There’s always injury risk and there’s not much you can do about that. But obviously Kevin takes great care of himself. And then there’s sometimes a motivation risk, and that doesn’t exist with Kevin. He’s not someone who’s motivated by money. He’s out there playing the game for himself. He’s playing the game to win the game. He’s playing for the organization. He’s playing for his teammates. He wants to win a World Series, and so it never even crossed our mind that ‘Hey, we maybe we shouldn’t remove the carrot for this guy because we might see a different player.’ He is who he is, by the day he signed with this organization and his last day as a big leaguer, he just wants to play hard and win. From that perspective it’s a low-risk investment, and well-deserved as well.
Youkilis, on the possibility of leaving money on the table by signing a long-term deal:
I think that’s a skeptical thing to say, leaving money on the table. It can go either way. You could get injured and you could go into arbitration next year and not make your money. There’s a lot of things that happen. Could I have made a little more money? Maybe. But I think the biggest thing when you look at it is, for me personally, like Theo said, it’s not about money. It’s about going out and playing baseball. I’m getting paid a lot of money to play baseball. This is more than I’ve ever imagined making in my career, let alone in anything other than trying to play the lottery on the Megaball. Haven’t really hit that one yet. It’s easy. When we talked about the contracts and my agents, Joe and Brett Bick, they did a great job. I’m happy with what I have. I don’t need the extra $2 million that you can get a year. I was happy with the numbers we came to and I’m excited that I get to play baseball. This gives me the opportunity, the guarantee to play for another next four years. You never know where your career’s going to take you, so I’m excited about that.
Youkilis, on his patience paying off:
It’s definitely a great feeling. I think my wife and a lot of people are like, ‘You don’t seem so happy.’ I am really happy about it. It probably hasn’t hit me yet. Like I said, like Theo said, I don’t see the money factor. I don’t see the dollar signs. I just see playing baseball and getting prepared for the season. It is a great thing for all of the patience — 2005 was a rough year for me, going up and down. It was very tough. But my agent Joe Bick was always telling me, ‘Hang in there.’ Theo was telling Joe, ‘Hang in there.’ To be honest with you, if it wasn’t for 2005 and having the right attitude and having guys like Dave McCarty to explain to me that he probably got rushed to the big leagues a little too soon, and that if you can go out and learn from a lot of the guys here — you’ve got Manny [Ramirez], David [Ortiz], Bill Mueller and all these other great hitters who were here –I just tried to take a little bit of everything from them and go down to Triple A and play. And when my time came, I had to make the best of the opportunity, and I think that’s what I did each year. But my whole goal was to improve each year and play hard and do the little things.
Epstein, on Youkilis’s versatility:
Kevin’s versatility is very valuable to us. He’s a very well-rounded player. He’s never been accused of having blinding speed, but he runs the bases well given his speed. And the strides he’s made defensively, both at first and at third, are incredible. That’s what we’re looking for in a player we’re going to give this kind of money to is well-roundedness and versatility. It does a lot for me in the offseason in putting the team together and for Tito during the season and writing out the lineup card in knowing he can pencil Kevin in at first or third.
Francona, on Youkilis and Pedroia becoming team leaders:
By just asking the question, you’re acknowledging that two of our younger guys are stepping up on the field and in the clubhouse. Their presence is recognized, and that doesn’t always happen with younger guys. Sometimes they’re struggling to survive. These guys have thrived in this situation and they’re front-and-center, they’ll ask a question when they don’t play well and they’ll be available. They’re accountable, not just to the media, but to their teammates, to me and the coaches. That’s part of the reason they’re who they are. They will have a huge responsibility to our ballclub going forward, as they should, and that makes us more comfortable.
Epstein, on the same topic:
Kevin and Dustin have both been held out by us internally as models, as model Red Sox, as what you want a Red Sox player to be. For instance, in our rookie development programs we’ve probably mentioned Kevin and Dustin dozens and dozens of times this last week. How to play the game, how to be a good teammate, different ways to get to the big leagues. We’ve cited Kevin’s patience and perseverance and his development path to the big leagues. And now with these contracts, it’s fair for us to hold them up as models externally as well. I think it means more as an organization when you put your money where your mouth is, when you have guys who play the game well, who play it the right way and come through the system to reward them if it makes sense. And now we’re proud that we can hold these guys up both inside the organization and to the outside world as models.
Youkilis, on his leadership role with the team:
We always have meetings before in spring training. Tito and Theo sit down with every player. The past two years they’ve always told me, ‘You’re putting yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to be a leader and you’re going to have to do stuff on the field.’ And to me it never bothered me one bit. I’ve always felt that I’ve never had enough time play with guys who are veterans along the way. But now its starting, you get a little more time, you start understanding that there’s young guys who need your help along the way and you have to be a good leader to those guys and help them along the way because it’s not easy road or path. It’s tough for some guys coming in for their first full season. I remember my first full season how tough it was physically and mentally. It’s an honor to be one of the leaders of the Red Sox. And I think that’s the greatest thing, that we have a bunch of guys that come together and will lead this team in times of need. And that’s how we get out of funks. We have a lot of guys who are willing to step up and do whatever they can to win ballgames.