The Red Sox offered arbitration to two of their free agents, catcher Jason Varitek and pitcher Paul Byrd, before last night's midnight deadline to do so. Varitek and Byrd are the only Sox free agents to be classified as Type A or Type B, with Varitek an A and Byrd a B.
That means that if either player declines arbitration, the Red Sox stand to benefit with extra draft picks. If Varitek declines and the Sox do not sign him, they would be awarded a first-round pick and a sandwich pick in the 2009 draft. If Byrd declines, the Sox would get a sandwich pick in that draft.
Varitek is almost certain not to accept arbitration, as he (and agent Scott Boras) have in mind a multiyear contract.
Varitek, 36, had a difficult year offensively, batting .220 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs. He has been with the Red Sox for his entire major league career, since 1997. He signed a new contract with the Sox after the 2004 season, a four-year, $40 million deal that expired at the end of this season.
Byrd, who went 11-12 between the Sox and Indians with a 4.60 ERA, also appears unlikely to accept arbitration.
If either accepts arbitration by Sunday's midnight deadline, he would be contractually tied to the Sox for 2009, with a salary to be decided on by an arbitrator (unless the sides reach a deal before that). Byrd made $7.5 million and Varitek $10 million this past season.
The Sox are not offering arbitration to their other free agents: Alex Cora, Mike Timlin, Sean Casey, Curt Schilling, Mark Kotsay, Bartolo Colon, and David Ross.
Delayed reactionWhen Baseball America came out with its top 10 prospects in the Red Sox system, debate seemed to center around the No. 3 ranking. Behind slugging first baseman Lars Anderson and righthanded pitcher Michael Bowden (who made his major league debut last season) was pitcher Nick Hagadone. The lefthander was the Sox' first pick in the 2007 draft, but had long-delayed Tommy John surgery this summer after a foot infection pushed it back. Though Hagadone won't be ready for the start of the 2009 season, Sox director of player development Mike Hazen wrote in an e-mail that Hagadone is now throwing more than 100 feet in Fort Myers, Fla., and should progress to 120 feet in the coming days. Hazen added that Hagadone will "begin his mound progression right after Jan. 1." Hagadone could be ready to throw in game action in Fort Myers at some point in May.
Traber signs onThe Red Sox signed lefthanded pitcher Billy Traber, 29, to a minor league deal, with an invitation to spring training. Traber pitched in 19 games in relief for the Yankees last season with a 7.02 ERA. He was a first-round pick of the Mets in 2000, taken 16th. He has pitched in 95 games (28 starts) over parts of four seasons in the majors, with a 5.54 ERA . . . Junichi Tazawa, the Japanese pitcher signed in recent days by the Red Sox, was expected to arrive in Boston last night from Japan. Tazawa will have a physical this week, and should be officially introduced in the coming days. He was signed to a major league deal but will start his career in the minors.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org