It was one year ago today that Josh Beckett sat at a table in Fenway Park with Theo Epstein and the two sides announced a four-year contract extension that would pay the righthander $68 million.
“It’s hard to have an elite organization without excellent starting pitching,” Epstein said at the time. “I think we have an even higher standard here, we need starting pitching that can succeed in the American League East. When you have that pitching, you don’t want to let it get away.”
Beckett was 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA last season, so it’s easy to say that decision was a mistake. But it also would be foolish and premature.
Beckett, if healthy, will make around 130 starts over the next four seasons. That will determine the wisdom of that extension, not the 21 starts he made last season. It’s worth noting that he is 30 and in the midst of his prime years as a player. In 2009, which wasn’t all that long ago, he was 17-6, 3.86 and averaged 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Beckett was hurt last year, he didn’t forget how to pitch.
But let’s say, just for kicks, that the Red Sox had let Beckett go into free agency. Who was going to replace him in the rotation?
Cliff Lee spurned the Yankees and Rangers to go back to Philadelphia. There is little chance he would have chosen the Red Sox. Carl Pavano was the next best free agent. No thanks. The Yankees looked at what was left and went with Freddy Garcia.
The Sox did the right thing by keeping Beckett. As to whether it works out, we’ll find out a little more starting tonight.