Sox to exchange figures with Ortiz, Ellsbury

January, 17, 2012
The Red Sox did not go to a single salary arbitration hearing with a player while Theo Epstein was general manager, a streak that new general manager Ben Cherington would like to continue.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
AP Photo/Bill KostrounJacoby Ellsbury is due a big hike from his $2.4 million salary last season.
He’ll get some indication of how difficult that will be later Tuesday, when the Red Sox are expected to exchange salary numbers with their two most high-profile arbitration-eligible players, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz.

Ellsbury, coming off a season in which he finished runner-up to Justin Verlander in voting for American League MVP, is well positioned to shatter the record for highest salary given to a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility.

Last year, Houston outfielder Hunter Pence won $6.9 million from the Astros in a hearing, and Pence’s season fell well short of the numbers Ellsbury put up in 2011, when he batted .321 (.376 OBP) with 32 home runs, 39 stolen bases, 105 RBIs and a career-high slugging percentage of .552.

Ellsbury figures to command a salary at least $1 million higher than Pence’s, and his agent, Scott Boras, may well ask somewhere between $8 million and $9 million, calculating that the Sox would be willing to settle toward the lower end of the range. Ellsbury was paid a comparatively low $2.4 million last year after missing almost all of the 2010 season with fractured ribs.

On Tuesday, both sides will submit a figure, and a hearing will be scheduled sometime during the first three weeks of February. The sides will then be permitted to negotiate until the hearing. If the case goes to a hearing, the sides will make their arguments before an arbitration panel, which will choose one or the other salary figure.

The Red Sox also offered salary arbitration last month to Ortiz, who turned down the two-year, $18 million contract the Sox offered him. Ortiz was paid $12.5 million by the Red Sox last season, which placed him behind three players who primarily were designated hitters: Michael Young ($16 million), Jorge Posada ($13.1 million) and Travis Hafner ($13 million). All three were being paid under multiyear contracts they signed when they primarily were position players, but it is reasonable to assume that Ortiz's agent, Fernando Cuza, will use them as comparables when preparing Ortiz's case.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz will get a raise from the $12.5 million he earned last season, but would he prefer a two-year deal to a one-year arbitration settlement?
At worst, Cuza will almost certainly be asking for more than the average annual value of $14 million that White Sox DH Adam Dunn received when he signed a four-year, $56 million deal last winter; Dunn proceeded to have one of the worst seasons ever by a major-league hitter. All of which is why the Red Sox retain interest in persuading Ortiz to agree to a two-year deal at a lower annual average value than he figures to receive in arbitration.

The Sox came to terms with left-handed reliever Franklin Morales on an $850,000 deal, making him the fifth arbitration-eligible player to come to terms with the club. The others are Andrew Miller ($1.04 million), Matt Albers ($1.075 million), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($2.5 million) and Ryan Sweeney ($1.75 million), the newly acquired outfielder from Oakland.

Besides Ellsbury and Ortiz, the other arbitration eligible Sox players are pitchers Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard and Andrew Bailey, the newly acquired closer from Oakland, and infielder Mike Aviles. Aceves, Aviles, Bard, and Bailey all are arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Of that group, Bailey, the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star with Oakland, can expect the biggest raise. Bailey, who was paid $465,000 last season, won't get the kind of bump the man he replaced, Jonathan Papelbon, got in his first year of arbitration -- Papelbon went from $775,000 to a then-record $6.25 million -- but he should clear close to $3.5 million.

The other players should all be within the $1 million to $2 million range.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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