Red Sox make $14M offers to Ellsbury, Napoli, Drew
BOSTON (AP) — Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell would like to keep the World Series champions together for another run at a title. And yet he knows that’s unlikely to happen.
“That was felt when we got off the duck boats, knowing this was one last chance to celebrate with a million people in the city,” Farrell said Monday, two days after the team’s victory parade and hours before the deadline to make qualifying offers to four free agents who were key to the team’s title. “Hopefully we’ll be able to retain all of them. The reality is that might not work out.”
One year after a midseason and offseason overhaul that turned a last-place team into World Series champs, the Red Sox began building for 2014 on Monday by making $14.1 million qualifying offers to free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. General manager Ben Cherington said the team decided not to make an offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, though he would like to re-sign the catcher.
“There’s interest in every one of them,” Cherington said. “I also think it’s unlikely that every one of them will be back. ... We’re going to keep the conversation going with all of them, and also with alternatives, and see where the market shapes up. In a vacuum we’d like to have all of them back.”
The Red Sox went from worst to first a year after dumping three of their biggest contracts — Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford — on the Los Angeles Dodgers at a savings of about $261.7 million. Instead of making a big splash in free agency last offseason, they signed mid-market players like Napoli, Drew, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara.
Cherington said the lessons learned from their successes and failures won’t be forgotten.
“I think we have to go into this offseason with the same general mindset: to build a roster as deep as we can,” he said. “The general philosophy would lead us toward a lot of the same things we were looking for last year.”
The oft-injured Ellsbury is expected to seek a long-term deal averaging $20 million or more. A year after missing more than half the season, he played in 134 games and batted .298 with nine homers, stealing 52 bases in 56 tries.
“Jacoby’s a terrific player, as everyone knows. Of course we know we’re a better team when he’s on the field than when he’s not,” Cherington said, adding that if they cannot sign him they would consider moving Victorino, who won a Gold Glove in left field, to center field and looking for a corner outfielder.
“That would be one possibility,” Cherington said. “We recognize how good he was in right field, and how valuable his defense was in right field. He’s capable of doing it.”
Napoli and Drew might accept the qualifying offer or use it as the basis for negotiations on a multiyear contract. Saltalamacchia, who made $4.5 million this year, could still re-sign with the team at a lower salary.
The Red Sox declined to make qualifying offers to infielder John McDonald and reliever Joel Hanrahan, who were not on the World Series roster. Also Monday, the team said outfielder Quintin Berry and infielder Brandon Snyder were sent outright to Triple-A Pawtucket and became free agents.
Right-handers Andrew Bailey and Alex Wilson, outfielder Ryan Kalish and left-hander Andrew Miller were reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.
“The game doesn’t stop,” Farrell said. “The baseball calendar doesn’t stop just because we played to nearly Halloween.”
Complicating Napoli’s negotiations is a hip condition that prompted the team to back out of a $39 million, three-year deal that had been tentatively agreed to and instead sign him to a one-year contract for a guaranteed $5 million with performance bonuses — which he eventually earned — that brought him back to $13 million.
“Mike Napoli played a lot this year and was a huge part of our team,” Cherington said. “We’re making a qualifying offer to him, so we obviously have interest in him returning on a one-year deal for $14.1 million. He’ll have an opportunity to consider that.”
On other topics Monday:
— Koji Uehara, who inherited the closer job and was selected the AL championship series MVP, is the leading contender for the job in 2014. The Japanese right-hander, who will turn 39 in the first week of the season, is coming off a season in which he set career-highs with 73 appearances and 74 1-3 innings.
“I think we’re completely comfortable starting next year with Koji as our closer,” Farrell said. “He didn’t leave here with any physical ailments. We went into this spring with the same thought, that we need to be careful with his age and his workload. And he exceeded everything.”
—Cherington is content heading into spring training with six candidates for the starting rotation: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster. “We could certainly envision a scenario where every one that’s currently under contract is in Fort Myers. And in fact, at this point, that’s what I would expect,” Cherington said. “We’ll see what the offseason brings.”
—Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has not yet had surgery on a torn ligament in his left thumb. “As far as I know, there’s been no date or site set for the surgery,” Cherington said. “But it certainly looks like it’s headed in that direction.”
—Cherington said no other teams have asked for permission to interview Red Sox coaches for other jobs. Bench coach Torey Lovullo is reportedly a candidate for the managerial job with the Chicago Cubs, who are run by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.