BOSTON — Kevin Youkilis wants everyone to know he is excited about his four-year, $41 million contract extension with the Boston Red Sox.
“I think my wife and a lot of people are like, ‘You don’t seem so happy.’ I am really happy about it. It probably hasn’t hit me yet,” Youkilis said at Fenway Park on Friday as the extension was announced.
The 29-year-old gets a $1 million signing bonus, $6 million this year, $9,125,000 in 2010 and $12 million in each of the following two seasons. Boston has a $13 million option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.
Youkilis hit .312 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs last season, but his most impressive work might have been in the field. The five-year veteran made just four errors in 125 games at first base, where he won a Gold Glove in 2007, then switched to third when Mike Lowell was injured.
Youkilis holds the major league record of 238 straight games at first base without an error, a streak that ended last June.
He finished third in AL MVP voting in 2008, behind Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau.
“Kevin has been a mainstay for us and a big part of our major league club through a lot of successful seasons and a big part of our future and we solidified that with this move today,” general manager Theo Epstein said.
Youkilis, who first achieved fame in the noted baseball book, ‘Moneyball,’ made his debut in Boston’s magical 2004 season, capped off with the first Red Sox World Series title in 86 years. However, the next season was the most trying of his career, as he was shuttled between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket.
“Coming up through the system you never know what kind of path you’re on,” Youkilis said. “You don’t know if you’re going to make it to the major leagues, you don’t know if you’re going to get traded, you never know where it’s going to go.”
Youkilis is a career .289 hitter with 66 homers and 314 RBI. His .997 career fielding percentage at first base is tops in Red Sox history.
“Like I said, like Theo said, I don’t see the money factor,” Youkilis said. “I don’t see the dollar signs. I just see playing baseball and getting prepared for the season. It is a great thing for all of the patience; 2005 was a rough year for me, going up and down. It was very tough. But my agent Joe Bick was always telling me, Hang in there.’ Theo was telling Joe, Hang in there.”’
There was some concern several weeks ago that Youkilis would have to settle for another one-year deal when reports surfaced that the Red Sox and Youkilis were far apart on an extension.
“I think the reporter did a good job catching Joe when he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that one morning and that’s how that story broke,” Epstein said. “In any negotiation there’s going to be periods when there’s progress and periods when there seems to be more of an impasse. We moved the ball along pretty well for a while then it stalled but then both sides moved again in the end. “
The Red Sox have not gone to arbitration since Epstein took over as GM. Closer Jonathan Papelbon and reliever Javier Lopez also filed for arbitration Thursday and will swap figures with the Red Sox if they don’t settle by Tuesday. Hearings take place in February.
Pedroia, who wouldn’t have been eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season, agreed last month to a $40.5 million, six-year deal.
“With the signing of Kevin and the signing of Dustin Pedroia earlier this off season, those investments really reflect our priorities as an organization and who we want to be, which is a team full of home grown talent trained in the Red Sox way, and able to compete at the highest level for a world championship year in and year out,” Epstein said.
For Youkilis, who was married in November, the new contract provides a peace of mind for his new extended family.
“It’s a great thing knowing I’ll be here for, hopefully, five years,” he said. “My wife is from Boston with her family here so that is a major factor in us staying here. My parents and my brothers and all my family members love being here in Boston. They love this place. They enjoy coming to Fenway Park every time and rooting us on. It’s a great feeling to know that I might also have the opportunity to maybe end my career here, too.”
Henry, Varitek meet
BOSTON — Catcher Jason Varitek reportedly is meeting with Red Sox owner John Henry in what is seen an effort to break a deadlock in contract talks.
Varitek told The Boston Globe the meeting was Friday night in the Atlanta area, where he lives in the offseason.
The 36-year-old veteran turned down the team’s arbitration offer last month. Varitek, who batted .220 last season, is coming off a four-year, $40 million contract. Agent Scott Boras reportedly is seeking another multi-year deal for him.
Boston general manager Theo Epstein has said he wouldn’t close the door on bringing Varitek back for another season. He also said the team is “pretty comfortable” if they have to go with recently signed veteran Josh Bard, seen as a backup, and either George Kottaras or Dusty Brown, who split time last year with Triple-A Pawtucket.