By Jeff Louderback
If Jacoby Ellsbury would have duplicated his 2011 numbers last season – or even see just a minimal decline – he would have been set for a significant pay raise in this, his third and final year of arbitration eligibility before he can become a free agent.
Instead of a salary increase of $5 million or more, likely the Red Sox center fielder will get a slight bump to the $8.05 million he was paid in 2012 after a dislocated shoulder he suffered last April limited him to 74 games, 323 plate appearances, a .271 average, four home runs and 26 RBI.
The previous season, when he was American League Most Valuable Player runner-up to Detroit’s Justin Verlander, the 29-year-old Ellsbury belted 32 home runs, knocked in 105, ripped 46 doubles and five triples, swiped 39 bases and produced a slash line of .321/.376/.552./.928 in 158 games and 732 plate appearances.
Ellsbury is one of nine Red Sox players who are eligible to file for arbitration by January 15. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia; left-handed relievers Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow; and right-handers Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan and Daniel Bard are the others.
The filing is a formality, and teams and players exchange salary figures on January 18. Most players reach an agreement with their team and avoid an arbitration hearing, but if the latter is required, a three-person panel selects one of the two salary figures. It is unlikely that any of the nine Red Sox players eligible for arbitration will get to the hearing stage.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, here are their projected salaries for 2013:
- Jacoby Ellsbury – $8.1 million
- Joel Hanrahan – $6.9 million
- Andrew Bailey – $3.9 million
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia – $3.9 million
- Alfredo Aceves – $2.6 million
- Craig Breslow – $2.4 million
- Daniel Bard – $1.6 million
- Andrew Miller – $1.4 million
- Franklin Morales – $1.4 million
Before and after agreeing to their 2013 contracts, Bailey and/or Saltalamacchia could be traded. The Red Sox have named Hanrahan as the closer and have a deep bullpen, including late-inning arms like Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Aceves, so Bailey is expendable. Behind the plate, David Ross is projected to serve more in a platoon role than a backup catcher, so Boston could decide to deal Saltalamacchia and have Ryan Lavarnway on the opening day roster. Saltalamacchia’s departure will likely be sealed if the Red Sox finalize their deal with Mike Napoli.
Aceves and Morales give the Red Sox starting pitching depth with their versatility. It would be a mistake to trade either arm, even though Aceves created tension via his tantrums with Bobby Valentine and Dustin Pedroia. Aceves is best suited as a set-up man/long reliever/spot starter while Morales can fill a set-up role and serve as a long reliever, but he has the potential to emerge as a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
Likely, the Red Sox will add another arm for rotation depth, a veteran who would be willing to open the 2013 campaign at Triple-A Pawtucket. Javier Vazquez is a possibility. Jair Jurrjens and Dallas Braden are other alternatives. A Major League team can never have too much starting pitching depth, as long as its offense has enough firepower to support the staff.
Boston’s lineup looks like it will once again be productive in 2013. Retaining Aceves and Morales for rotation depth is important so the Red Sox have viable choices if an injury arises.