John Tomase of the Boston Herald has a story this morning about the Red Sox and free-agent-to-be Josh Beckett which deals mostly with how much dough Beckett can expect and whether the team and the pitcher will negotiate during the season. I find this part more interesting, however:
But there could be complications. The Red Sox recently have made a point of including injury protection in their big free agent contracts. Right fielder J.D. Drew and Lackey agreed to clauses that allow the team to opt out (Drew) or add another season at the minimum (Lackey) if pre-existing conditions sidelined either.
[Jason] Bay balked at a similar provision last year, which is what derailed those negotiations in July and caused the Sox to pull their four-year, $60 million offer off the table. It never returned.
As far as I know, the Red Sox are the only ones doing this with free agents, obviously with the intention of limiting the biggest risk a team faces when signing a big name player. Such an approach itself has risks, however, the biggest of which is that players and agents will respond with hostility.
Jason Bay may have been an example of this as it appears that the team’s far more grim view of his health than he and his doctors had resulted in a lower offer and, it would seem, a chilling of relations. The team could counter this sort of thing, of course, by building in bigger upside incentives for players that stay healthy. Either way, the approach injects another variable into free agent negotiations which, while offering a potential advantage in terms of overall player health and financial efficiency, could make life a bit harder for the Red Sox if other teams don’t start to do similar things.
However it ends up cutting, however, it’s an innovation worth watching in the coming years.