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Red Sox reach out to Ortiz

Slugger offered salary arbitration

David Ortiz, who hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs last season, has until Dec. 7 to accept or decline salary arbitration. David Ortiz, who hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs last season, has until Dec. 7 to accept or decline salary arbitration. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 24, 2011
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The Red Sox made a significant overture to free agent David Ortiz last night, offering him salary arbitration.

Ortiz has until Dec. 7 to accept or decline. If he accepts, he would be Red Sox property for 2012. If the sides could not come to an agreement, a one-year contract would be determined via arbitration.

The Red Sox also offered arbitration to righthanded reliever Dan Wheeler, a Type B free agent. If Ortiz signs with another team, the Red Sox would receive two draft picks as compensation. Wheeler would return one.

Erik Bedard, Trever Miller, Tim Wakefield, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, and Jason Varitek were not offered arbitration. They remain eligible to return.

Ortiz, who turned 36 last week, hit .309 last season with 40 doubles, 29 home runs, and 96 RBIs. His .953 OPS was the highest by a designated hitter, well ahead of Michael Young (.854) and Victor Martinez (.850).

Ortiz has said he wants a multiyear deal. But he could be tempted by the offer of arbitration, knowing that he would get a raise from the $12.5 million he made last season.

The Red Sox previously elected not to exercise their $3 million option on Wheeler for 2012, yet offered him arbitration. That seems like an unusual move, unless there is an informal agreement for Wheeler not to accept.

Under arbitration rules, if Wheeler accepts, the Red Sox would have to offer him at least $2.4 million.

Wheeler was used primarily in low-leverage situations by former manager Terry Francona last season and posted a 4.38 earned run average in 47 appearances.

Varitek, a Type B free agent, made $2 million last season. If the Red Sox want him to return - and that is in question - it would likely be for less.

Varitek hit .221 with a .723 OPS over 68 games last season. He was an adequate backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but hit .176 after the All-Star break and on the season threw out only 12 of 85 base stealers.

General manager Ben Cherington said last week that rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway will be given a chance to make the team in spring training. That could be a sign that Varitek is not in the plans for 2012.

Varitek, who turns 40 in April, has said he plans to play next season and is hoping it will be with the Red Sox.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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