Seven days after he listed 13 teams he'd like to play for if the Red Sox didn't re-sign him, Schilling put the brakes on his first—and likely last—foray into the open market by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with the Sox that, with incentives, could pay him more than the $13 million he made this season.
Schilling was one of the top free agent pitchers available and said on his blog he believed he could have landed a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $15 million and perhaps a two-year deal worth between $25 and $30 million. But Schilling, who has numerous business and charitable interests in Boston, said throughout the season he'd rather sign with the Sox than go elsewhere.
"He [could have] made a lot more in guaranteed money elsewhere," Sox general manager Theo Epstein said during a conference call. "I think it says a lot about Curt that he was willing to take less to come back here. It's easy for a player to say it's not about the money, but it's hard to actually prove it. And in Curt's case, he put his money where his mouth was and really made a statement about what's important to him right now.
"It's not too common in this day and age that someone who can get a lot more guaranteed money was willing to take the risk associated with performance bonuses and other bonuses. So he did a rare thing and we're proud of him."
Of course, the Schillings won't be hosting a bake sale any century soon. Schilling is guaranteed $8 million next season but can earn $375,000 upon reaching 130 innings and $375,000 for every 10 innings after that up to 200 innings for a total of $3 million in innings-based incentives.
In addition, Schilling—who appeared overweight upon reporting to spring training—can make $2 million if he passes six random weight tests ($333,333 per test) during the regular season. Lastly, he'll get $1 million if he earns a vote in the Cy Young Award balloting.
The signing represents a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the Sox. Even if Schilling—who missed seven weeks this season due to a sore shoulder and finished 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 151 innings before he went 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four playoff starts—does not reach any of his incentives, the Sox believe he'll still provide a better return on $8 million than anyone else they could have signed in a weak pitching market. And both the Sox and Schilling will profit if the incentives in the deal drive Schilling to work harder and pitch better in what he's said will be his final season.
"I don't see this as a risky move at all when you look at the marketplace and you look at what pitching costs," Epstein said. "If he struggles or has a difficult time staying healthy and can only contribute, say, 120 innings as a depth guy who is protected, we have him at a price that makes sense. If he manages to have a great winter and puts it all together and reconditions his body and stays healthy all year long and has a fantastic season, then certainly that'll mean great things for the Red Sox and he'll be rewarded appropriately with his bonuses.
"So I think when you have a contract like this, it really mitigates the risks as much as possible."
Schilling's return introduces another interesting wrinkle to the 2008 season: The possibility of the Sox employing a six-man rotation. Epstein said the Sox hope to provide each starter some "…structured time off," and with the rotation expected to feature two youngsters spending their first full season in the majors (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) as well as a pair of 41-year-olds (Schilling and Tim Wakefield), utilizing six starters regularly is one way the Sox could keep everyone fresh. (For our story on how such a rotation could work, CLICK HERE)
Epstein said the Sox have pondered the idea, and while he said he didn't want to tempt fate by committing to it—"I think the minute we start counting on having a six-man rotation or give it any consideration, that's when we lose a pitcher or two in spring training"—he admitted it will get some consideration this winter.
"Certainly we're in a little bit of a unique situation where you could say a number of our starters might benefit from something like that one way or the other," Epstein said. "I'm sure that topic will come up a lot in our internal discussions between now and spring training. It's an interesting concept given the personnel that we have, but it's not something that we've fully explored yet."
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE
One More Year For Schilling
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