Rick Porcello takes the mound for the Red Sox tonight. Of course, we’ll all be hoping for a performance at least as solid as his last time out. Naturally, if he doesn’t perform up to those expectations, people will be angry. They’ll most likely point out his enormous contract again. Usually the next words out of their mouths are ‘And they didn’t have to give it to him.”
After all when the Red Sox traded for Porcello, there was still a year left on his existing contract. The Red Sox could have just let him play out that contract and see what happens. But they didn’t, and people haven’t been happy about it. After all, the Sox decided to give him a huge contract when they didn’t need to, and before he had even thrown a single pitch for the Red Sox.
You know. Just like they did for David Price.
Because, they’re right. The Sox didn’t have to pay Porcello the money. They don’t have to pay anybody the money. It just means you risk not having that person play on your team.
After all, it was just that year that there was another pitcher that the Red Sox didn’t have to pay money to. He too still had a year left on his contract. The Sox made him a contract offer that was declined, and the season was allowed to finish. Of course, Jon Lester has the season of his career that season, which priced him right out of the Red Sox price range.
People were livid.
How could the Sox not have signed him the year before? They had him all to themselves. All they had to do was give him the huge contract, and he never would have even gotten to free agency. He’d still be on the team!
Then, the Red Sox go and do exactly that, and people are upset. I guess some people are just never happy.
It would be easy to toss out the cliché that you can’t have it both ways. But, in reality you can. And, more important, you should. You should make that kind of decision as each situation presents itself, and not just make a blanket policy of “no signing anyone unless we have to.” It depends on the player. The Red Sox would routinely pick up the option on Pedro Martinez’s contract even though they “didn’t have to.” But, he was Pedro. So, why risk letting him become a free agent if you “didn’t have to.” (Pedro, by the way is another player they extended the contract on even though they didn’t have to, and before he had even thrown a pitch in Boston.)
So, the Red Sox made a calculated decision. They felt letting Porcello pitch that final year of his contract would make him even more costly when they tried to re-sign him. Sometimes, like when they did it with Pedro, that strategy works. Sometimes, like with Dustin Pedroia, it doesn’t work.
Every time you sign a player, there’s a risk involved. The best you can hope to do is minimize that risk the best you can and do what you think is best for the team.
Whether you have to, or not.