Red Sox offer arbitration to 'Tek, Byrd
Boston to receive compensation if free agents sign elsewhere
BOSTON -- The Red Sox officially offered arbitration to free agent Jason Varitek before Monday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, meaning that they will get two compensatory picks in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft if the veteran catcher signs with another team. Varitek is a Type-A free agent.
The only other free agent to be offered arbitration by Boston? Right-handed starter Paul Byrd, a Type-B free agent. The Red Sox would get one Draft pick -- in the supplemental round -- if Byrd winds up signing with another team.
However, both players now have options of their own after being extended the offer of arbitration. Varitek and Byrd have until Dec. 7 to accept or decline the offer.
By accepting arbitration, the players would become contractually bound to the Red Sox for the 2009 season.
It is highly doubtful that Varitek would do so, as he will likely look long and hard for a multiyear contract, be it with the Red Sox or another team.
The Red Sox have stated interest in bringing back Varitek, their captain. But it remains to be seen if common ground can be found in the negotiations. Varitek's agent, Scott Boras, said last week that Varitek had yet to get an offer from the Red Sox.
If Byrd accepts Boston's offer, it is unclear if he would fit into the team's plans for 2009. Though he provided valuable depth after being acquired from the Indians in late August, the Red Sox have a projected rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and perhaps Clay Buchholz or Justin Masterson.
What happens is Varitek and Byrd decline arbitration? The Red Sox still have the right to negotiate with them as free agents, just like the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball.
Varitek and Byrd were Boston's only ranked free agents.
Teams do not get Draft picks for unranked players who sign with other teams, whether or not they are offered arbitration.
Therefore, the Red Sox didn't make arbitration offers to Bartolo Colon, Curt Schilling and Mike Timlin, catcher David Ross, infielders Sean Casey and Alex Cora, and outfielder Mark Kotsay.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, clubs retain the right to negotiate and/or enter into a contract agreement with any of their free agents, regardless of whether arbitration was offered. There are no deadlines for such negotiations and/or agreements.
Of the unranked free agents, the Red Sox might have some interest in retaining Casey and Cora, two veteran bench players. Kotsay could also be a nice fit, but he's more likely to seek a full-time job somewhere else.
Byrd combined for an 11-12 record and a 4.60 ERA in 30 starts with Cleveland and Boston in 2008. Varitek's offensive struggles were well chronicled, as he hit .220 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs over 131 games in 200
Casey hit .322 with 17 RBIs in 69 games this season. Colon, the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner for the Angels, was 4-2 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts for the Red Sox. He wound up finishing the 2008 season on the suspended list when he opted to go to the Dominican Republic for personal reasons rather than try to win a spot out of the bullpen for the postseason.
Cora, a member of Boston's bench since July, 2005, hit .270 over 75 games in '08.
Kotsay combined to bat .276 with six home runs and 49 RBIs over 110 games with Atlanta and Boston. His versatility proved to be important to the Red Sox in the postseason when he moved from backup outfielder to starting first baseman in the American League Championship Series.
Schilling missed the entire 2008 season with right shoulder weakness. The big righty is currently trying to decide whether to retire or pitch the second half of the 2009 season for someone.
Ross split 2008 between Cincinnati and Boston, hitting .225 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 60 games.
Timlin went 4-4 with one save and a 5.66 ERA in 47 relief outings. The 42-year-old righty indicated to Sox general manager Theo Epstein earlier this winter that he'd like to pitch in 2009 rather than retire. However, Epstein informed Timlin that he probably didn't factor into Boston's plans going forward.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.