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Sox, Bay break off talks

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  July 17, 2009 05:39 PM

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TORONTO -- The Red Sox and All-Star left fielder Jason Bay failed to come to terms on a contract extension after the Red Sox made an "aggressive" offer about one week ago, general manager Theo Epstein said. The halting of negotiations means the Sox and Bay have probably ended any contract negotiations until after the season, when he is eligible to become a free agent.

"It's now clear that this round of talks won't result in a deal, either," Epstein said this afternoon. "As a result, we're going to table discussions again, which once again is a mutual decision, and pick them up most likely after the season."

Bay, whom the Red Sox traded for at last year's non-waiver deadline, is in the final year of a contract extension he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in November 2005. The Red Sox had negotiated with Bay during spring training, but the talks broke down when the sides could not agree on a fair-market value for outfielders.

But just because talks broke down for the second time this season doesn't mean Bay is eager to test free agency. Bay said that he'd still like to remain with the team, but didn't want the contract situation to become a distraction to anyone around the club.

"I'm not trying to set a precedent," Bay said. "Just looking for something that's fair. Whether that's changed over the last three months, you guys can determine that.

"It's the same situation we were in in spring training, where they were at a place where they were comfortable and we were at a place where we're comfortable and we didn't bridge the gap. That being said, doesn't really mean it's the end of the world, either. Just didn't really want it to become a distraction, not so much to myself but to the entire team. So we decided to kind of table that until later, which probably will be til the end of the season."

Bay and his agent, Joe Urbon, rejected the final contract offer made by the Sox about a week ago, and the talks finished up yesterday. Epstein said discussions had restarted in mid-June. He characterized them as amicable, and he believed the Sox had a chance to finalize a new extension before the All-Star break.

"I think we were really hopeful with the aggressive offer that we made that we could have reached a deal now," Epstein said. "But we have complete respect for Jason as a player and a person and for what free agency means to players. He's worked his whole career and had a really consistent career to get to a point where he can set his family up for life. We're not going to begrudge him. We're not going to hold anything against him because he makes a decision that he may want to wait and be able to consider every possible opportunity."

Asked if he was encouraged by how the talks went this time, Bay said, "Yeah. ... They have come a long way and, like I said, it's not really the end-all, be-all. Definitely more encouraged with the way things went this time, a lot more, actually, that hopefully we get something done."

Bay said the Sox had made "great strides and I appreciate it."

The sides can sit down again at the end of the season, after the World Series, before Bay would have to file for free agency. He's just looking for "something that makes sense for me," he said.

"I am in no position to say that I want to file for free agency and see what's out there," he said. "I'd still love to get something done here. I like it here. But that being said, we just basically at this point right now don't want it to be an ongoing distraction, like i said, for both of us coming to the field and answering contract questions.

"So we're kind of tabling it and there's a big window at the end of the year after the season. We can sit down and try to hammer something out again. But the way things have gone so far, like I said, very encouraged with that."

Epstein offered similar sentiments.

"I think he sat down with us in good faith. We approached him in good faith. And it just didn't work out at this point. We'll see what the future brings. We still want to retain him. I think he still wants to be here. It's just not going to happen now."

Adam Kilgore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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