The Red Sox pulled quite a rabbit out of their financial hat on Monday, locking up pitcher Josh Beckett with a four-year, $68 million deal.
I must admit, I was very surprised to hear they worked out such an economical deal. When Boston inked former Angel John Lackey to a much more luxurious five-year, $82.5 million deal, it was easy to assume Beckett would be gone. The Sox had also spent considerable money beefing up the defense on Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro. If would have been tough to blame Theo and Co. if they chose to part ways with Beckett.
In the end, though, the Sox saw an opportunity that was hard to pass up. By securing Beckett, the Sox have command of four premium pitchers (Beckett, Lackey, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) through the 2014 season. To make matters better (how rare!), Lackey is the only one of the four who is on the wrong side of 30.
Looking around the league, it is tough to find another club that can boast such rotational security. The Rays have a strong young rotation, to be sure, but do not have four starters locked up for that amount of time. In an era where pitching contracts are still recession-proof, the Sox have pulled off a nearly impossible round of negotiations.
As to the deal itself, it would seem to be fairly safe. Beckett is somewhat prone to injuries and can fall into some ugly slumps, but has been a workhorse overall. In four seasons with Boston, Beckett has failed to reach 200 innings pitched in only one of them (2008).
In his first season with the Sox, Beckett posted a pretty ugly 5.01 ERA and recorded “only” 158 strikeouts. Since then, his K/9 rate has stayed comfortably above 8 as he struck out more than 190 batters in 2007 and 2009. He has also kept his walk rate down, and had a Roy Halladay-esque K/BB ratio of 5.06 in his 2008 campaign. Finally, Beckett has been amazingly consistent in keeping his WHIP under 1.2.
This smattering of numbers indicates that, while he may not be trending upward, Beckett is in no danger of a sudden regression. He does not benefit greatly from luck, as his BABIP has stayed close to .300 the last three seasons. Barring any serious blister problems or other random catastrophes, the Red Sox should see an even return on their Beckett investment.