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11/09/11 8:19 PM EST

Red Sox monitoring markets for Pap, Papi

Closer reportedly still in mix with Philly; DH's options clearer

BOSTON -- Not yet a full week into free agency, the road for David Ortiz's return to the Red Sox is easier to see than Jonathan Papelbon's.

MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reported on Wednesday that Papelbon could still be signed to be the Phillies' closer, despite reports Tuesday that Philadelphia had locked up its own free agent, Ryan Madson. Sources told MLB.com that a deal for Madson is not in place, though both parties continue to talk.

Ortiz's market, meanwhile, is limited by his position, with only a few American League clubs in need of a full-time designated hitter -- the Red Sox chief among them.

"I've actually traded messages with David, but I've spoken with his agent a couple times," Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday evening at Fenway Park. "I think with David, I think it's in some ways a little bit more clear in terms of what his market could be. It's a little easier to have the conversations earlier in the offseason and start to get into what we might be able to, so we're starting to do that. I still don't know when there will be a resolution, but there's been more dialogue, because I think it's a little bit easier to frame what the market probably is.

2011 awards
MLB.com takes a glance at each position entering the Hot Stove season.

SP: Plenty of mid-tier arms
RP: Closers flood market
1B: Pujols, Prince elite
2B: Thin but reliable
3B: Aramis the lone big bat
SS: Attention on Reyes
OF: Bargains available
DH: Ortiz the top target
Hot Stove MLBlog
Hot Stove Tracker

"With Pap, it's a little bit more difficult, because [he has] more options in terms of the National League, more unknown about what's out there. So [we've had] less dialogue with him, but [we'll] keep the door open certainly, and we'll talk again I'm sure next week."

Despite those plans to continue the conversation, Cherington is realistic about the nature of free agency and how quickly decisions can be made. If the 31-year-old Papelbon, who's spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Red Sox, gets an offer he likes, he could be gone.

"[Papelbon] doesn't owe us a call," Cherington said. "I don't think we expect that. ... If he gets something that he really wants and there's a deadline on it, he can take it."

Cherington hasn't spoken directly to Papelbon since the closer left Boston. Born in Louisiana, Papelbon lives in Mississippi and likes "to get away after the season," Cherington said.

As for the two veteran players the Sox have on the market, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, Cherington said he had reached out to and was trading messages with both, but had not spoken to them yet.

With reports that Jose Reyes was being wined and dined in a tour of the Marlins' new ballpark on Wednesday, Cherington was asked if the Red Sox planned some grand tours of Boston for prospective signings. He said, however, that the caliber of player the Sox will be looking to sign likely won't be in that stratosphere.

"Certainly, some of the higher-profile free agents have come to expect that sort of treatment, and we've done it in the past with guys," Cherington said. "This offseason, as I mentioned, is going to be more about fixing what's under the hood than it is about buying a new car. We're going to make moves, and we're going to build pitching depth and we're going to be active, but I'm not sure that right now is the time to go through that exercise, given the kind of targets we're going to have."

Cherington reinforced that it's very early in the offseason and that he hasn't narrowed his eye to just one or two places of need. Logically, pitching and right field would seem to be the markets he'll be watching most intently.

Little on the free-agency front may be finalized, however, until a manager's in the fold.

"We've reached out to agents on free agents, but we've been spending the majority of time on the manager's search," Cherington said. "Sometimes there is very little movement at all before the GM Meetings, and there has been a little bit this year, so I guess that's a little bit of a surprise."

The GM Meetings are to be held in Milwaukee next week.

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.