By Jeff Louderback
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington faces more roster decisions today as arbitration-eligible players must be offered contracts by 11:59 p.m. or they will be non-tendered and become free agents.
The following Red Sox players are eligible arbitration (their projected 2013 salaries, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, are included in parentheses):
First Time: Scott Atchison ($800,000)
Second Time: Andrew Bailey ($3.9 million), Alfredo Aceves ($2.6 million), Daniel Bard ($1.6 million), Andrew Miller ($1.4 million), Franklin Morales($1.4 million)
Third Time: Jacoby Ellsbury ($8.1 million), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($3.9 million), Craig Breslow ($2.4 million), Ryan Sweeney ($1.8 million), Rich Hill ($1.1 million)
Though Ellsbury can depart as a free agent after the 2013 season, he is not likely to be traded since he would not yield a favorable return, unless a team felt confident it could sign him to a long-term deal. The Red Sox believe that the 29-year-old center fielder will be motivated to produce monstrous numbers in 2013. Then they can make him a qualifying offer next offseason and get a draft pick if he leaves via free agency.
Of the pitchers on this list, Bailey, Bard, Miller and Breslow are expected to fill significant roles in the bullpen. The Red Sox hope that reuniting with John Farrell, and working with new pitching coach Juan Nieves, will help Bard re-discover what made him one of the game’s most dominant set-up men before the club decided to move him into the rotation in 2012 – an experiment that went awry.
Though Aceves clashed with Bobby Valentine and even had a dugout confrontation with Dustin Pedroia, the versatile right-hander (who will be 30 in December) provides valuable depth as a reliever and a spot starter. He will likely be offered a contract, but he could be traded this offseason.
Morales is the left-handed version of Aceves, minus the dysfunction. The 26-year-old left-hander is a power pitcher who can serve as an impact reliever and a starter. He gives the Red Sox insurance if a member of the rotation lands on the disabled list.
Miller and Breslow are other left-handed relievers who bolster the bullpen. If Boston opts to retain Hill, who has been effective when healthy but has spent a lot of time on the DL, they will have a plethora of left-handed relievers and will seemingly trade one during the offseason or in spring training.
Atchison, who will be 37 when the 2013 campaign opens, has pitched well for the Red Sox, but he has a partially torn elbow ligament and could eventually need Tommy John surgery. That could lead to a non-tender, or the Red Sox could take a chance on him since his salary projects under $1 million.
Though Saltalamacchia is reportedly on the trade market, he will likely be offered a contract, but Sweeney is a non-tender candidate. If Sweeney is offered a contract, he could still be traded in the offseason since Ryan Kalish could fill an outfield platoon role for the Red Sox in 2013. Sweeney and Kalish are both left-handed hitters who proficiently play all three outfield spots, but Kalish has power potential whereas Sweeney has 14 home runs in 1,900 Major League plate appearances.
Like every team, Boston will be scanning the list of non-tenders across the majors for potential free agent signings as the winter meetings near. David Ortiz is one of the most prominent players who were non-tendered and then ascended to standout status with their new club. Ortiz was released by the Twins in December 2002 and then signed with the Red Sox in January 2003.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, if Boston offers contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players, they will have a projected $22.7 million in payroll commitments, including an estimated $8.1 million for Ellsbury.