Sunday, February 24, 2008

Francona IN the Fold!

FORT MYERS, Fla. - With two World Series titles behind him and a clubhouse full of players always ready to sing his praises, manager Terry Francona has reached an agreement on a three-year, $12 million contract extension with the Red Sox that takes him through the 2011 season.

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Nine Innings with Edes

The Sox have the option to add two more years, bringing the potential total value of the package to $20 million, or an average of $4 million a year. The two option years must be exercised together after the 2011 season. If the options are not exercised, Francona receives a $750,000 buyout, guaranteeing him an average payout of $4 million over the three years.

The $4 million mark is a significant one, placing Francona just behind Joe Torre of the Dodgers (a reported 3 years, $13 million) at the highest level of the managerial salary scale.

"It was important for Tito to be recognized as one of the top two or three managers in the game," said Francona's agent, Pat Rooney, of negotiations that concluded Saturday night, with general manager Theo Epstein informing the players of Francona's new deal before yesterday morning's workout.

The contract also provides for Francona, 48, to receive an additional $250,000 in any year the Sox return to the World Series.

The last year of Francona's current deal calls for him to be paid $1.75 million in 2008. Under terms of the extension, his salary doubles to $3.5 million in 2009, $3.75 million in 2010, and $4 million in 2011.

The Sox first approached Francona about a new deal during the 2007 season, even before they won their second World Series in Francona's four years as manager, but it wasn't until the last week that negotiations intensified.

"In some ways he was born and bred through baseball for this job," Epstein said. "I'm proud to have hired him."

The new deal, if the options are exercised, could keep Francona as Red Sox manager for a decade, an unknown achievement for any Boston skipper in more than 60 years. Joe Cronin guided the Sox for 13 consecutive seasons (1935-47), the only person in team history to manage more than five full seasons consecutively. No Sox manager since has had an unbroken tenure of more than four full seasons.

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