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The Red Sox have until midnight Friday to determine the fate of the 11 arbitration-eligible players on their roster.
In some cases, there’s no decision at all. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be offered a contract. So will catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and closer Andrew Bailey.
It’s not quite so simple for some other players. The Red Sox could open a roster spot and save some money by letting ineffective outfielder Ryan Sweeney go. Lefthanded reliever Rich Hill could be agreeable to coming to spring training on a minor league contract after pitching in only 25 games last season.
Any player tendered a contract will be tied to the Red Sox for at least one season. If the sides cannot agree on terms, an arbitration panel would determine a salary for one season.
Players not tendered instantly become free agents, eligible to sign with any team, including the Red Sox.
These are players with 3-5 seasons of major league service. For the first three seasons, teams can set a player’s salary. After six seasons, a player can become a free agent.
Here’s a look at the players affected:
■ RHP Alfredo Aceves: A series of insubordinate actions last season increased the chances of Aceves being let go. But new manager John Farrell has spoken to Aceves about his conduct and believes he can be salvaged. Ultimately, Aceves is too versatile and valuable to let go, despite his stumbles last season. Don’t be surprised if he gets traded later on, however.
■ RHP Scott Atchison: He always seems to be the odd man out with the Red Sox, then makes his way back. Atchison was outstanding last season (a 1.76 ERA in 37 appearances) before a torn elbow ligament put him on the disabled list. He eschewed surgery and returned in September, throwing 5⅓ scoreless innings in five games. He has earned a contract, but the Sox could non-tender Atchison and bring him back on a minor league deal.
■ RHP Andrew Bailey: Obtained from Oakland to be the closer, he tore a thumb ligament in a spring training collision and didn’t return until mid-August. Bailey was inconsistent when he did come back, saving six games and blowing three others. But giving up on him based on 19 games makes little sense. If his value were higher, he could be a trade candidate.
■ RHP Daniel Bard: He made $1.61 million last season, and a contract offer would mean a raise despite an awful 2012 season. Bard failed as a starter, losing his velocity and command in what was a poorly executed transition from the bullpen. But he is only 27, and the hope is Farrell can unlock the talent that once made him one of the best setup men in the game.
■ LHP Craig Breslow: The situational reliever pitched well in 20 games after being obtained from Arizona at the trade deadline. The Sox have four lefty relievers, a valuable commodity in trade talks.
■ OF Jacoby Ellsbury: One of the best players in the game in 2011, Ellsbury suffered a shoulder injury on April 13 of this year and missed three months, not the 6-8 weeks initially expected. He had a .693 OPS after returning and only four home runs. Ellsbury will be a free agent after next season and has open-market advocate Scott Boras as an agent. But team officials say he is not being traded. That could change if the Sox fall out of contention again.
■ LHP Rich Hill: Hill has appeared in only 40 games over three seasons with the Sox because of injuries. He has pitched exceptionally well in those games, compiling a 1.14 ERA and striking out 36 in 31⅔ innings. Hill has been compliant with the team’s wishes in the past and could agree to a minor league contract.
■ LHP Andrew Miller: Long an underachiever, the former first-round draft pick found his calling as a situational reliever last season and excelled. He looks to be a big part of the bullpen again. And not just because he’s the tallest guy out there.
■ LHP Franklin Morales: He started nine games last season and relieved in 28 others. He pitched pretty well in both roles and is viewed as a reliever going forward. Depending on how the roles shake out, he could be asked for in trades.
■ C Jarrod Saltalamacchia: At the moment, he is the starting catcher and should get a nice raise from the $2.5 million he earned last season. Salty hit only .222 but had 25 homers and improved defensively. He could get traded at any moment, however, with the signing of David Ross giving the Sox a surplus of catchers.
■ OF Ryan Sweeney: He hit .260 with, remarkably, no home runs in 204 at-bats. Then he broke a knuckle on his left hand punching a metal door July 30 and was lost for the rest of the season. Sweeney could be let go as the Sox rebuild their outfield.