Ortiz, Wheeler offered arbitration by Sox

The Red Sox made a significant overture to free agent David Ortiz tonight by 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 two sides could not come to an agreement, a one-year contract would be determined via arbitration.

The Red Sox also offered arbitration to right-handed 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. The Sox are already getting two picks in return for Jonathan Papelbon, who signed with the Phillies.

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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 multi-year 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 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, the Red Sox would have to offer Wheeler at least $2.4 million if he accepts.