The day after Orlando Cabrera beat his world champion teammates to meeting President Bush, Cabrera's agent said the Red Sox had yet to express any interest in re-signing the shortstop.
"Is he disappointed?" Cabrera's agent, Dan Lozano, said last night. "Sure, he's disappointed. But he's a big boy, he understands the business side of it."
Lozano said he twice left messages with the Sox but had yet to hear from them. Cabrera, who met the president Monday in his native Colombia, made no secret while he was helping the Sox win the World Series that he hoped to return to Boston next season. He ranks near Edgar Renteria and Nomar Garciaparra among the top shortstops on the free agent market.
"We're moving forward and talking to other teams and fielding other offers," Lozano said, declining to identify the teams or discuss the proposals.
The Cubs, Cardinals, and White Sox are among the teams shopping for an elite shortstop. Cabrera, who turned 30 Nov. 2, helped turn around Boston's season by hitting .294 with six homers and 31 RBIs in 58 games after he arrived from Montreal in the July 31 trade that sent Garciaparra to the Cubs. Cabrera did not commit an error in the postseason, prompting the Hall of Fame to request his glove for an exhibit in Cooperstown.
Sox officials publicly have expressed interest in re-signing Cabrera at a reasonable price. They declined to comment last night, but there were strong indications the Sox were waiting for the free agent market for shortstops to better develop before they begin shopping in earnest. The Sox were among many teams surprised 37-year-old Omar Vizquel received a three-year, $12 million deal with the Giants and Cristian Guzman landed a four-year, $17 million contract from the Expos, now the Nationals.
Still, the decision by the Sox to not express their interest in re-signing Cabrera to his agent by yesterday -- three weeks after Cabrera filed for free agency -- seemed significant.
"I really don't know where we stand with the Red Sox or what their agenda might be," Lozano said. "At this point, we're dealing with the teams that definitely have shown interest."
The Sox may need to consider how their top prospect, Hanley Ramirez, fits in their future. Ramirez, 20, is playing well (.263 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games) in the Dominican Winter League against teams stocked with a considerable number of major leaguers. He is expected to compete with the major leaguers in spring training, though he is considered at least a year away from joining the parent club.
If the Sox envision starting 2006 with Ramirez as their shortstop, they may opt to sign Pokey Reese or a player of Reese's caliber to fill the position next season. But Lozano indicated Cabrera remained open to returning to the Sox.
"He enjoyed Boston," Lozano said. "Orlando's experience there was only a good one." . . .
As Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli became one of the most productive catching tandems in the majors, they joked last season about selling themselves in free agency as a package. It turns out the Sox liked the idea so much that they have made strong efforts to try to re-sign both players.
Sources familiar with the proposals said the Sox have offered Varitek about $36 million over four years and have asked Mirabelli to return next season for about $1.5 million. Though Varitek, 32, initially sought $55 million over five years, he may find the Sox offer hard to beat. And Mirabelli, 34, would receive a sizable raise from the $825,000 he earned last season. Both offers could shift as the process evolves.
Boston's pursuit of Varitek and Mirabelli has heated up while a number of fallback options, including Damian Miller and Mike Redmond, have moved closer to signing elsewhere. Miller, who received a tentative two-year offer from the Sox, reportedly reached a preliminary agreement yesterday with the Brewers on a three-year, $8.75 million deal. And Redmond, who received some interest from the Sox as a potential backup, was close to signing a two-year deal with an unspecified team as early as today, according to his agent, Joe Urban.
Urban said he had spoken with Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "I know Theo has had an eye on [Redmond] for a while in that [backup] role," Urban said. "But we've gotten such positive feedback from so many clubs, I'm not going to wait for everybody."
He said the Sox clearly have other priorities. "I think they're going to do everything they can to get Jason done and do their best to get Mirabelli done," Urban said.
In Varitek's case in particular, it may take a while longer to negotiate a final package.
"I think the Red Sox will eventually get 'Tek," Trot Nixon said. "But with what? I don't know if they will give him what he wants."
The Sox catchers led the majors last season in home runs (27) and slugging percentage (.497) and led the league in runs (91), doubles (40), and on-base percentage (.386). They combined to knock in 102 runs, second only to Cleveland's catchers (122).