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What the arbitration offers mean for the Red Sox and David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Dan Wheeler

11.23.11 at 10:32 pm ET
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The Red Sox offered salary arbitration to free agents David Ortiz and Dan Wheeler, while declining to offer it to free agent catcher Jason Varitek prior to a midnight deadline to make such an offer to free agents. In doing so, the Sox guaranteed that should either Ortiz or Wheeler sign with other teams, they will receive draft picks as compensation for their departures.

In the case of Ortiz, a Type A free agent, the Sox will receive two draft picks should he sign with another team. The fact that a team would have to part with a draft pick in order to sign Ortiz might also dampen his free agent market, since other teams might be reluctant to give Ortiz a multi-year deal while also parting with a pick that would likely come from either the first or second round. The Sox are now the only team that can offer Ortiz a contract without losing a draft pick for signing him; added to the acknowledged mutual interest in continuing their relationship, the Sox’ offer now increases the likelihood that such an outcome will occur.

Of course, Ortiz (who turned 36 last week) could also accept salary arbitration, in which case he would likely be in line for an increase over the $12.5 million salary he received in 2011, coming off a year in which he hit .309 with a .398 OBP, .554 slugging mark, .953 OPS, 29 homers and 96 RBI in 146 games.

Teams will not be required to give up a draft pick in order to sign Wheeler, a Type B free agent. The 33-year-old, signed to a one-year, $3 million deal for 2011 that included a team option (since declined) for $3 million in 2012, was 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA, 39 strikeouts and just eight walks in 47 appearances, his fewest games in the majors since 2004. He suffered a pair of injuries (resulting in his first ever trip to the DL) that also interrupted what had been a tremendous mid-year run of success.

If Wheeler signs elsewhere, the Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick that would be granted by Major League Baseball; however, the signing team would not have to give up a pick, meaning that the offer of arbitration does not impact the right-hander’s market. He, too, could also accept the team’s offer of salary arbitration; if he does, the Sox would be able to offer him no less than $2.4 million.

For the second straight year, the Sox did not offer arbitration to free agent catcher Jason Varitek, a Type B free agent. The 39-year-old hit .221 with a .300 OBP, .423 slugging mark, .723 OPS and 11 homers in 68 games while playing in just under 40 percent of his team’s contests. After the Sox declined to offer him arbitration last year (coming off a 2010 season in which Varitek earned a $3 million base salary), he negotiated a one-year, $2 million deal with the Sox last offseason. The Sox will likely stay in touch with their longtime captain this offseason, though it remains to be seen whether the 2011 campaign — Varitek’s 15th as a Sox — will prove his last in Boston, particularly given that catcher Ryan Lavarnway appears to be close to major league ready, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is set to return to the Sox.

Meanwhile, Type A free agent Jonathan Papelbon signed his four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies before teams had to make offers of salary arbitration to their free agents. That being the case, the Sox will receive two draft picks for Papelbon’s departure. Right now, the team is in line to receive both the Phillies’ first-round pick and a sandwich pick.

The team also did not offer arbitration to its other free agents — Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller and Tim Wakefield.

Read More: dan wheeler, David Ortiz, draft pick compensation, Jason Varitek
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