Beckett’s Contract Gets Reclassified on Boston’s Balance Sheet

Forget all that talk about stranded assets and $68M liabilities. Because with ten starts in the books, it would seem like the Red Sox now have enough evidence to reclassify Josh Beckett’s contract as a performing asset. And a strongly performing one at that.

Back in early March, when Beckett was scuffling down in Florida, there was plenty of reason to worry that his four-year extension would be an albatross that hung around the Sox neck through 2014. He had pitched abysmally in 2010. His health was an issue. And you didn’t have to go far to find critics willing to testify that Beckett was on the wrong side of 30 and short two miles of velocity.  Given all that, the market was assuming Beckett might give the Sox $30M of value over the next four year, not the $68M he was signed for.

But ten starts into this season and it now looks like Beckett is right back to being the guy who deserved that rich extension in the first place. In fact, he is actually breaking out to new highs as his 1.69 ERA after 64 innings is more than a run clear of any total he has posted over a full season.  And the sub-one WHIP is almost twenty basis points better than his 2007 career low.

Last night, he stuffed Cleveland over 6.2 innings, and putting aside some bad luck on 4/27 in Baltimore, Beckett has handed the Sox nine consecutive quality starts.  This is miles ahead of what I’m sure the Sox expected back in March and truthfully, it must exceed Theo Epstein’s most optimistic expectations from signing day.

Now sabre guys will scream that Beckett’s performance to date is not sustainable. The gist of this rant is founded on a belief that Beckett is getting a bit lucky when it comes to balls put in play and balls staying in the yard. Give Becektt another 64 innings and his numbers won’t look nearly so good, the haters will claim.

Honestly, they are probably right. Beckett most likely won’t head into August with a sub-two ERA. And he probably won’t win this season’s AL CYA, despite being at the head of the pack through Memorial Day.

But a few things are clear at this point in the season.  Beckett has enough velocity to thrive. His two-seamer is back to being an elite pitch. And he is throwing his curve as good as he has ever thrown it. Add it all up and it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say Beckett will earn, at a minimum, the $17M he is owed this season. And if a few things break right, he might just end up on that CYA podium at season’s end.

Obviously, the big wildcard with Beckett is always his health. And one can’t predict how that will play out this year or next. But the early returns are excellent. As such, I am starting to feel much better about Beckett’s contract. And no longer do I automatically assume it will choke the Red Sox two years down the line.

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