Flag is up on free-agent talks

November, 3, 2011
BOSTON -- In the midnight hour Wednesday, Ben Cherington expects … most folks will be sleeping.

The one thing the Red Sox general manager doesn’t expect, even with free agents able to begin negotiating at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, is for the Sox to be signing anyone at that hour, and that includes two of his own free agents, David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon.

"We'll continue the dialogue and plan to talk to David again soon," Cherington said late Wednesday afternoon. "I talked to [Papelbon's] agent [the Levinson brothers, Sam and Seth] once earlier in the week, probably again tomorrow or the next day. Just keep in touch. I wouldn't expect any closure on any of those guys any time soon."

Ortiz enters free agency with a new bauble: On Wednesday, he was named the winner of a Silver Slugger award, given to the best hitter at each position. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also were named Silver Sluggers.

Cherington said he has had conversations with Ortiz directly, as well as with his agent, Fernando Cuza.

"David's been around town, so we may involve him in the conversation," Cherington said. "I think if they're into free agency, they may feel like they need [to be kept in the loop], but I don't want to speculate."

Meanwhile, Papelbon is the best in a crowded field of closers that includes Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell and Joe Nathan. Papelbon spurned previous Red Sox attempts to sign him to a multiyear contract, preferring to go year to year in arbitration, and now is looking to cash in on a stellar 2011 season.

Cherington has said the Sox would like to retain both Ortiz and Papelbon for the right price. The Sox also will be in the market for starting pitching depth and a right-handed bat for the outfield, and have so far downplayed the likelihood they would be in the hunt for the big-ticket items available this winter.

“We'll have tomorrow to make a lot of phone calls," Cherington said. "The phone calls tomorrow are mostly placeholders. It's just registering interest. Not much happens right away. It takes a while. But yeah, we'll get in touch with a bunch of people tomorrow to register potential interest and then keep in touch as time goes on."

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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