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12/08/08 11:58 PM EST

Epstein not optimistic about any deals

Red Sox GM met with unidentified free agent in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- A coy Theo Epstein confirmed that the Red Sox did meet with one free agent on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings on Monday. But the general manager wouldn't divulge what was running rampant on the rumor mill -- that the player was lefty CC Sabathia, who figures to be the most expensive pitcher on the market.

"We don't talk about agents, players or teams that we've met with directly," said Epstein. "I just feel like it's in our best interest to not report everything that we do, so I'm not going to answer that one. But we met with at least one player, at least one agent and at least one team today. I don't really want to get into specifics."

It is well known that Sabathia was in Vegas meeting with potential suitors, so it makes perfect sense that he was the player Boston met with. Efforts to reach Greg Genske, Sabathia's agent, were unsuccessful.

Manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell were also in on the meeting with the mystery player, according to Epstein.

Francona gave an unconvincing denial that he met with Sabathia, pleading the fifth and then asking reporters what Epstein had said.

Assuming that player was Sabathia, it is still unlikely that the big lefty will wind up in a Boston uniform. The Red Sox have a standard policy of not going beyond three or four years on free-agent starting pitchers and Sabathia has already received a six-year, $140 million offer from the Yankees.

Sabathia, according to Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, has expressed great interest in pitching in Los Angeles.

One thing Epstein made clear is that he doesn't expect to be a headliner at this year's Winter Meetings.

"I guess it was a typical Winter Meetings day," Epstein said Monday. "[There were] some talks, [but we] couldn't get anything done. It took a half hour to get through the lobby. It was all right. We're not really optimistic about our chances of getting anything done while we're here. We're not really close to anything. We're talking to some teams, we're talking to some agents. I wouldn't expect anything to come out of these Meetings, to be honest."

During last year's Winter Meetings, the Red Sox pushed for Johan Santana, but ultimately decided the price was too high. Their only acquisition of the entire winter was reserve first baseman Sean Casey.

Much like a year ago, the Red Sox have a strong roster intact, which decreases the urgency to make a big splash. That isn't to say that they won't.

"I'd like to think some of this dynamic is attributable to the fact that we have a nice foundation as a franchise, so we're not in a desperate mode," Epstein said. "We do see areas where we'd like to improve. We do have holes we'd like to fill. We also like what we have quite a bit. We've made plenty of trade proposals. We just haven't matched up."

Epstein noted that often times, the biggest deals don't come until after the Winter Meetings.

"I think we're just eager when it comes to the offseason," Epstein said. "We all want stuff to happen, and it always seems to happen towards the end of the Winter Meetings and into December."

And what about catcher Jason Varitek? Boston's starting catcher since 1999 declined arbitration on Sunday, but still isn't believed to have offers on the table from any other teams.

"We haven't really talked much with [agent] Scott [Boras] yet about Jason this winter. I'm sure we will," Epstein said. "We'll see where it goes. I think it's just the way things usually go. Last time he was a free agent, it was on a little bit of a later schedule."

Where else can the Red Sox turn for catching help?

The Rangers, even after trading Gerald Laird to the Tigers, still have two top catching prospects in Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But Boston and Texas simply haven't been able to find common ground, and it doesn't appear that will change. One Major League source said that the Sox simply feel the Rangers' price on the catchers is too high.

However, the Diamondbacks could become a fit if they make Miguel Montero available. The 25-year-old catcher hit .255 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 70 games in 2008. But he is believed to have considerable upside offensively.

But Epstein reiterated that he isn't close to sealing any trades.

"Trade talks haven't really advanced," Epstein said. "We're just throwing out ideas. We're throwing out ideas that other teams are dismissing. Other teams are throwing out ideas that we're dismissing. We're not really narrowing it down and getting close yet."

The Red Sox remain one of several teams interested in superstar slugger Mark Teixeira, but those sweepstakes appear to still be in the early stages.

Though Boston designated hitter David Ortiz stated the need for another 30-homer bopper earlier this offseason, Epstein sounded as if that would be more a luxury than a necessity.

"We're not really a home run-driven offense," Epstein said. "We haven't been for some time. We're an offense built on on-base percentage, depth of the lineup and doubles more than anything else, and we have some power. How many home runs did Jason Bay hit? And he's a new addition to the team. You saw how he impacted us in August and September and into the postseason. He's got legitimate power."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.