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Individually, plenty at stake for Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 2, 2010 11:07 AM

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Yesterday we looked at three possible paths the Red Sox could take as a team for the remainder of this season.

Now let's look at what is at stake individually. It's an old (and generally true) baseball axiom never to believe too much of what you see in September. Because of roster expansion and varying degrees of effort among the opposition, statistics can be wildly skewed.

But for many of the Red Sox, this next month could help determine whether they have jobs next season in the organization.

Here's a breakdown of those facing uncertain times:

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLES
Kevin Cash
Jacoby Ellsbury
Hideki Okajima
Jonathan Papelbon
Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Analysis: Cash will not be tendered a contract. Okajima has not been any good since the first half of the 2009 season and should be non-tendered. But he is a lefty. Saltalamacchia will surely be tendered. Ellsbury and Papelbon are trade candidates. Ellsbury's value has never been lower, so the Sox might need to hold onto him. But Papelbon will be due a raise on the $9.35 million he made and Daniel Bard is just waiting to take over.

SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS
Adrian Beltre
Victor Martinez
David Ortiz
Jason Varitek

Analysis: Varitek seems comfortable in a backup role and was productive before he got hurt. There's a deal to be made there. Ortiz and the Sox need each other, albeit not for the $12.5 million option the team holds on him. There's also a deal to be made there. Beltre and Martinez will be more tricky. Beltre has been wildly successful in Boston and Scott Boras will relish taking him on the market. Will the Sox pay to bring him back? They probably should. The question with Martinez is whether the Sox see him as a catcher, a first baseman or a little of both. If they believe Saltalamacchia is ready, VMart could go. A four-year deal for a 32-year-old catcher is not good business.

OTHER FREE AGENTS
Scott Atchison
Bill Hall
Mike Lowell
Darnell McDonald

Analysis: The Red Sox hold an option on Atchison and bringing him back is an easy call. Happy retirement, Mr. Lowell. Hall and McDonald would like to believe they can play full time somewhere next season and that's probably not with the Red Sox. Both were far, far better than anybody expected and deserve a shot.

ROOKIES
Michael Bowden
Felix Doubront
Ryan Kalish
Robert Manuel
Daniel Nava
Yamaico Navarro
Dustin Richardson

Analysis: These guys are all playing to improve their stock for next season. Doubront seems like a good bet to be in the bullpen at the start of 2011. He has grown to like the role and there's not much room in the rotation for him. Nava profiles as a fourth outfielder. Kalish could start 2011 in Pawtucket unless he has a starting spot in Boston.

LOOKING FOR JOBS
Jed Lowrie
Eric Patterson

Analysis: Assuming Hall heads elsewhere and he gets through the final month without illness or injury, Lowrie would be a good fit as the utility infielder next season. Patterson seems to be a DFA candidate to clear roster space.

SPECIAL CASE
Tim Wakefield

Analysis: He is under contract for 2011 at $1.5 million. That will go to $2 million if he pitches only 5.1 more innings and gets to 130 this season. Wakefield made $3.5 million this season and has so far earned an additional $400,000 in performance bonuses based on the 17 starts he has made.

But Wakefield has not been pleased with his limited role and statistically has had one of the toughest seasons of his career. The question now is whether he wants to come back in the same role and whether the Sox want to bring him back.

Wakefield's ability to eat up innings as a starter or reliever has a lot of value.

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Any player not mentioned is under contract for next season and will be back unless he is traded or released.

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