After the Red Sox declined the $5 million player option for Jason Varitek on November 9th, Varitek picked up his player option last night. The option is for $3 million and includes $2 of incentives for games played, although, with the addition of Victor Martinez, Varitek is unlikely to even meet the 80 games started incentive.
Last year was another disappointing season for Varitek, posting a .703 OPS, which was 23rd out of 40 catchers who made 200 plate appearances. He had a career low in batting average (.209) and tied a career low in OBP (.313). There are a few reasons for hope though. In 2008 Varitek started strong, before posting one of the worst offensive months I've ever seen - an abominable .122/.205/.176 line in June of 2008. In 2009 he was actually quite good before the All Star Break (.826 OPS) and hitting 13 of his 14 home runs before slumping in the second half to a .489 OPS. Perhaps him playing less regularly will help keep his bat and legs fresh, allowing him to be productive later into the season. Of course, the addition of Victor Martinez didn't really help at all in 2009, as he posted his worst monthly OPS in August and September. Interestingly, his OPS declined every single month of the year.
His subpar bat combined with a complete inability to control the running game makes Varitek an odd option for a backup, although as a backup his .700 OPS is much easier to swallow. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'd much rather see the Red Sox turn to Wagner, who at least is a good defender and has some upside.