Tim Wakefield, according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, will decide this weekend a) whether or not he wants to continue playing, and if he does, b) where he'll play.
My take: The answer to a) is "Of course he does". And I believe b) should actually be worded this way: Do I go somewhere else if the Red Sox don't want me, or do I retire?
Clearly, the Red Sox don't want him; if they did, they'd have signed him by now. (There was talk early in the offseason that they were looking at Wakefield as a fallback option if they failed to acquire another starter, but they haven't brought in anybody -- except a bunch of low-percentage longshots -- and Wakefield's still unsigned.) That being the case . . . what now?
Wakefield's agent, Barry Meister, told Lauber that the 45-year-old knuckleballer "has some options", and we'll set aside our natural cynicism to believe that he's telling the truth. (Quick aside: Wouldn't you just love to hear some agent someday say, "Nobody wants my guy"?) I have to believe they're non-roster invitations to spring training. Wakefield obviously thinks he can still pitch -- all 2011 evidence to the contrary -- and if someone had offered him a contract, I believe he'd have signed it.
So does he accept the invitation? Or does he retire as a Red Sox?
It's a tough call. Like I said the other day, most ballplayers keep playing until no one wants them anymore. I won't think any less of Wakefield if he tries to hook on somewhere else.
But we're talking about a guy who's 45, who's only had two ERAs under 4.58 since 2003, and whose ERA has been in the 5.00s in each of the last two seasons. That painful march to career victory number 200 -- it took him eight tries, and the Red Sox finally had to score 18 runs for him to do it -- was as stark a piece of evidence as there could possibly be that if he's not at the finish line, he's about to trip over it. (Incidentally, he pitched 9 innings in two games after winning his 200th . . . and gave up 11 runs.) To me, there's a dignity issue at play.
Personally, I'd hang 'em up. If he does, the same Red Sox who are treating him as if he has a communicable disease these days would not only welcome him back into the family, they'd embrace him. The "Welcome Back and Welcome Always" signs would flash forever. But, of course, that'll happen -- eventually -- even if he goes to camp with St. Louis or Colorado or whoever.
In any case, it appears we'll get our answer soon enough.