This makes sense, but it assumes that the Sox will "match" (whatever that may mean) whatever the broader market offers, and I'm a whole lot less certain of that than you seem to be.
I don't think that's what he's doing. He doesn't sound "certain" of anything. AR is merely assuming a situation like Varitek's as a hypothetical, in order to highlight his point - basically to put Lowell's circumstances in a light somewhat more favorable to the Red Sox than the real circumstances are, and show why Lowell would still
take the Sox's offer to the market even in those cicumstances. AR is not saying that the Varitek hypothetical accurately describes Lowell's situation - just the opposite in fact.
Rather, I think it far more likely that the Sox will go as far as they're willing to go in order to keep him off the market. But if they aren't able to do that, then I suspect they'll drop out.
See I don't agree with this at all. In a Varitek situation, where there's a clear desire on both sides to make a deal, and where the parties are not as far apart re what they expected that deal to look like, then it makes sense for the Sox to avoid the bidding war. But where they're far apart, unless the Sox are able to do all of these:
1) define what his value will be,
2) convince the agents that that's what his value will be,
3) overcome any desire on the player's part to test the market which is independent of his desire to stay in Boston, and
4) actually pay that value,
...then all they're doing is bidding against themselves, and making the starting point for the market higher
than it needs to be. If you're going to take that approach you've got to actually do the deal, and you've got to have a clear sense that the other side wants to do the deal with you
. Lowell's intentions simply aren't that clear; his desire to stay in Boston, as opposed to Varitek's, is really just a throw-in.
(I should note: Varitek was a catcher, a position where top talent was scarce and expensive, and to which other players couldn't be easily converted or "tried out"; he was a team leader, not just in nebulous feelgood chemical and inspirational terms, but in real terms of calling pitches, checking if not calling defenses, generally being the manager's liason on the field; he was slightly young at the time of his deal than Lowell is now; his salary demands arguably were a little lower relative to his market than Lowell's are, if you discount the ARod Factor; and he was a switch-hitter, which probably has some negligible additional market value for a catcher.)
In Lowell's situation, 3/36 and, let's say, 4/56 or 4/60 are significantly far apart. There are two bases for disagreement that we know about right there: the annual salary and the years. On top of that you have what may possibly be a certain uncertainty or even incredulity on the part of Lowell himself (but presumably not his agents) about how much he can actually command. The temptation to test the market purely for its own sake may well be a factor here, and while the dollar figures that come out of that may cool the Sox's and Lowell's interest in each other, that isn't necessarily inversely tied in Lowell's mind to any desire to stay in Boston. Not yet, anyway, before the market opens.
In other words, he might just want to know how much he's worth. So far this thread has revolved around the difference between 3/36 and some higher prospective figure, which I'm guessing is somewhere between 4/48 and 4/60, and what that says about the relative importance Lowell currently places on loyalty and money, etc. etc. We take it for granted that Lowell will not sign for 3/36 when he can get 4/48 or 4/60. But what if he would
pass up 4/60 in New York for 4/50 in Boston? Or 4/54? 4/56? What if the Sox are actually willing to pay 4/54 or 4/56?
I'm not saying that this is what's going on. Just that in the absence of real information about what's going on, these are reasonable possibilities. And that if/once the information starts flowing, it will paint a rather more defined picture of what is happening. And that that flow of information is probably itself tied to the opening of the market.
More to the point, I think the Yankees would be willing to offer something the Sox aren't, and that would be that. To me, the only question is whether the Yankees will have that chance.
Well, it's entirely possible that the Yankees are willing to offer something the Sox aren't. Whether they will have that chance is not, however, the "only" question. And that wouldn't be that. For example, if the Yankees were really the virtual locks you suggest, then some involvement by the Red Sox might be warranted if only to maximize the amount the Yankees pay out. The willingness to pay out is not solely a negotiating advantage; in a competitive market it can also have disadvantageous byproducts. If the Yankees are willing to pay 4/60, might it not be worth certain reasonable risks to make them pay every dollar of that, even if the Sox wouldn't pay it themselves?
I just think there are all kinds of different ways of looking at this situation, and all kinds of different strategies, that the Sox could have adopted that don't involve "dropping out" completely or allowing the public perception that if there is no deal by Monday then the Sox are out. I don't see what advantage such an outlook gives to anyone except restless fans who want closure for its own sake. The desire to "just get it over with" is why the average person pays more money for a car than he should have (and doesn't even know it) and gets it in brown when he wanted red. Theo Epstein & Co., I guarantee, are not significantly motivated by the desire to just get this over with; if anything they rather embrace the tense uncertainty inherent in negotiations, and base concession only upon cold analysis.
(I'm not saying you just want to "get it over with". I'm more just going with what sounds good to me at the moment.)