With Jason Varitek close to announcing his retirement, former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, in an interview on the Mut & Merloni show, reflected on the trade he made in 1997 to bring Varitek and Derek Lowe to the Red Sox in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb. It was a landmark trade that had implications for the Sox over the entirety of Varitek's 15-year tenure with the Sox.
"You'd like to make one of those every year, but they don't come along every day. I'm just glad we got the opportunity to see those guys during the great years of their career," said Duquette. "Jason had a great career. He really solidified the team for over a decade. He was one of the few guys, he was the captain of the team, but he really earned that captaincy by the way he handled himself on the field, the leadership that he undertook.
"Whenever we went into Yankee Stadium, he always got a big hit," added Duquette. "He was a clutch player. Obviously, staying healthy and catching the most games in Red Sox history, then being there when they actually won, that's got to be a great thrill and honor for him."
Duquette suggested that the fit for Varitek in Boston was perfect. The Sox had targeted the addition of a catcher since the team did not view Mike Stanley (the primary catcher in 1997, but who would be moved that summer in a deal with the Yankees for prospect Tony Armas Jr., who was in turn flipped to the Expos after that season for Pedro Martinez) as a long-term option. At the time of the deal, Duquette felt Varitek had potential to develop beyond what the Mariners had seen.
"I think frankly (the Mariners) tried to rush him and they didn't get a chance to see all his skill and capability. That was a great opportunity for us at the time," said Duquette. "Everyone saw Jason Varitek at Georgia Tech. I personally saw him in the Cape Cod League when he played against Nomar. ... I was aware of what his skills were. We had the perfect opportunity, and he went on to become one of the great catchers in the history of the team."
As for Lowe, Duquette knew less about the pitcher. Indeed, the GM did not deny the pitcher's claim to WEEI.com that he believed that Lowe was left-handed at the time of the deal.
"Did you think we were focused more on Varitek or Derek Lowe? What do you think?" said Duquette. "I knew Derek was a sinkerballer, but I didn't know as much about Derek as I did about Jason. Gary Rajisch was big on Derek Lowe, and it was good we got both those guys."
Asked whether he pursued Varitek to serve as a backup catcher to Matt Wieters this offseason, Duquette said he did not.
"I thought that Jason had the opportunity to spend his whole career there with the Red Sox," he said. "If they didn't have a spot there for him, I thought it was the right thing for him to do, to choose retirement."
Duquette was also asked whether he considered pursuing another player whom he acquired while GM of the Red Sox, Manny Ramirez.
"I thought since I was so generous with Manny last time around, he should have paid me this time around. He didn’t quite see it that way," Duquette joked. "Manny can hit. I think he got the second chance he was looking for. I think he’ll do well. We just didn’t see a fit here in Baltimore."