The year after everyone got sick of people being pushed in front of or hurled beneath moving mass-transportation vehicles, we come to 2009's contribution to the ever-growing cliche lexicon: Kicking the can down the road.
George Bush was accused of doing it with Iraq. Congress is accused of doing it with entitlement reform. And the Boston Red Sox are about to do it — again — with their catcher situation.
The etymology of the phrase is easy enough to figure out, which is more than can be said for the Sox' plans for 2009-10 behind the plate. The Sox offered incumbent starter-Captain-intangiblemeister a $5 million contract for 2009 with a team option for another $5 million in 2010, or a player option for $3 million. That's a guaranteed $8 million over two years — two more years for the Sox to find a starting catcher after trading away two options (Kelly Shoppach and Josh Bard) during the past four.
When the Sox offered what appeared to be a willing overpay to Varitek in 2004 — four years, $40 million for performance that surprisingly wound up being worth just about $40 million — it was believed to either be a career-ending deal, or a deal that at least finished up Varitek's time as a starting catcher in Boston. The Sox in 2004 chose to kick the Varitek-replacement can a long way down the road. Yet here we are, kicking the can again.
Hey, sometimes that just happens. The Sox in retrospect should have held on to Shoppach and figured out another way to acquire Coco Crisp. Of course, they received Josh Bard in return, and trading him to the Padres didn't even require hindsight to look poor. Efforts to acquire catching (Kottaras for Wells, drafting Brown and Wagner) haven't panned out as well as hoped, while few quality catchers have been available for trade, and none at all have become free agents. This past offseason has seen a striking number of potentially available catchers in the trade market, which looked promising but has so far proven disappointing — the catchers all have significant question marks, and the teams' asking prices have been too high.
So here we are again, with Jason Varitek, who has until Saturday to decide whether the only offer he has is good enough for him to take. The betting here is that he'll take it, giving the Sox a little more leverage in the hopes of driving down the asking price for a young catcher to take Tek's miserable at-bats against right-handed pitchers and be the much-ballyhooed protege for the Captain's allegedly amazing game-calling and game-preparation skills.
Hopefully, that works out. Otherwise we'll be coming across that can soon enough.