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Theo Epstein: Red Sox’ first choice to retain Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez

11.12.10 at 2:45 pm ET

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discussed the shape of his team’s offseason as well as the upcoming General Managers meetings, which will take place next week in Orlando, Fla. Epstein touched on a number of subjects, among them the fact that the team’s first choice at both third base and catcher is to retain All-Star incumbents Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez.

“Our first choice for our third baseman in 2011 and beyond would be to bring back Adrian Beltre,” said Epstein. “Victor would certainly be our first choice to be our 2011 catcher and beyond. He did an outstanding job for us for the year and a half he was here. We’€™d certainly be comfortable with him coming back. We’€™ve been pursuing him ‘€“ I know it’€™s been portrayed in the media a little bit as if we haven’€™t been pursuing him but that’€™s really between us and Victor and his agents ‘€“ we absolutely want this guy back. He knows that and he’€™s known that for awhile. We’€™ll see if something can be worked out.

“Things happen in free agency. It always comes down to years and dollars in the end but there’€™s no lack of interest on the Red Sox’€™ end on Victor coming back. And I think certainly the same is true from the other end, I think Victor would love to be here. We’€™ll see what happens. To answer your question, he’€™d be our first choice at catcher and Adrian would be our first choice at third. Whether that can be worked out certainly remains to be seen.”

Epstein also discussed a number of other topics, among them:

–While he believes that the team is in position where it can return with its starting rotation intact, the Sox will still explore any available opportunities to improve the rotation “if there is an opportunity to acquire someone who can fundamentally impact our staff.” Still, he noted that it was a significant benefit to the Sox that they were not operating from a position of need with regards to acquiring starting pitching.

–He suggested that the team will acquire “at least one” reliever via trade or free agency. He also noted that the free agent class of non-closing relievers appears to be quite strong, though that can be a double-edged sword, since the wealth of available relievers means that there are a number of teams in search of replacing departing members of the bullpen.

–Epstein said that the potential that the club could get a number of compensatory draft picks “factors in a little bit” when trying to decide whether to sign Type A free agents who would require the sacrifice of a draft pick of its own, but that ultimately, the decision has to be made on its own merits as to whether a player was worth the sacrifice of a draft pick. Epstein noted that the team values its picks extremely highly, especially entering a 2011 draft that is expected to be incredibly deep.

“You never like to lose a pick even if you’€™re getting picks back,” said Epstein. “The ultimate decision is the player that you’€™re signing. … You want to gain as many picks as you can, especially in what is shaping up to be a terrific draft.”

–Epstein does not anticipate signing any free agents before clubs decide whether or not to offer them arbitration.

“We’€™re not particularly close to anything at this time,” he noted.

–While he made clear that he wants to retain Beltre, if the third baseman departs in free agency, the Sox are comfortable with Kevin Youkilis moving across the diamond from first to third base.

“If we were presented with scenario where we didn’€™t have Beltre and had to consider moving Youkilis across the diamond, we would be comfortable with that. It’€™s something we’€™ve had dialogue with him about over the years, including recently, and he sees himself as a third baseman even though he’€™s played more first base than third base in his major league career,” said Epstein. “He came up as a third baseman, I think he was underrated defensively at the time. While he has gotten older relative to playing a lot of third base in the minor leagues, he’€™s maintained a lot of the skills that are required to play the position. He’€™s got really good instincts over there, more than anything. He’€™s played that position more, by instinct than by pure athleticism he still maintains that, the ability to read hops and make plays. We’€™d be comfortable if we had to moving Youk over to third. He would do a fine job defensively and his offense would certainly be outstanding for that position.”

–On the subject of Youkilis, Epstein said that he is progressing well in his return from injury, and that by progressing in his rehab to the point where he was able to swing a bat, Youkilis “can show up to spring training without any real lingering concerns about the hand.”

Dustin Pedroia is also healing well as he recovers from the pin in his broken left foot, and he will be seen by doctors around Dec. 1 to see how his rehab is rehabbing and whether he might be able to start running.

–Epstein described Jacoby Ellsbury as “asymptomatic,” even though he noted that a scan might not yet reveal 100 percent healing. Even so, the outfielder is currently at Athletes’ Performance, having commenced his offseason workout program, and Epstein said “there will be 100 percent healing.”

Mike Cameron‘s healing “is going as scheduled as well,” Epstein said, as the outfielder recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia. The Sox will have some of their doctors visit with Cameron next week in Georgia to check his progress.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis
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