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Red Sox non-tender Rich Hill, sign Matt Albers, tender contracts to seven others

12.12.11 at 10:27 pm ET
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A week ago at the winter meetings, after the Red Sox worked out a one-year, $1.04 million deal with left-hander Andrew Miller, GM Ben Cherington said that the team had one candidate to be non-tendered, meaning that the Sox would not offer him a contract by the time that Monday’s midnight deadline passed. In the hours leading up to that deadline, the team made the decision not to bring back Rich Hill, the left-handed reliever who reeled off nine straight scoreless appearances after a May call-up only to suffer a torn ulnar collateral ligament on June 1 that required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Hill, whose minor league deal last season called for him to make a prorated $580,000 salary while in the majors, suggested earlier on Monday that he is progressing well in his rehab from surgery that took place a week after he suffered his injury. He is confident that he can pick up where he left off, and given his progress to date (he is now throwing at 120 feet, a distance that is often followed by throwing off a mound), he has not yet ruled out a return to games by Opening Day.

“Health-wise, I couldn’t feel any better,” said Hill. ‘€œI’€™m trying to get as strong as I can for the start of the season. It wouldn’€™t surprise me if I was ready by April 5. However, I’€™m not 100 percent sure how the rest of the program will go.”

Hill had been hoping that the Red Sox would re-sign him. He plans to see if there will be another team that offers him a major league contract. If so, then the Milton native likely will leave Boston having made 15 appearances — all scoreless — for the team for whom he grew up rooting.

If, however, there is not a major league offer on the table, then Hill would not rule out returning to the Sox on a minor league deal, given the appeal of working with a number of familiar individuals in the organization and playing near home. Regardless of where he resumes his career, Hill is confident of what he can accomplish.

‘€œThere would be a fit [with the Sox]. [Cherington] and I talked about this,’€ Hill said of whether he would be open to a minor-league deal with the Sox. ‘€œStill, there is a disappointment by not being tendered. But I understand the position of being in their shoes, the business side, of not being tendered. On my side, it’€™s frustrating because you work and work and work.

‘€œ[But] I know that signing here or anywhere, wherever I end up, I will be back and pitching as a premier left-hander out of the bullpen.’€

The other candidates represented fairly straightforward decisions given their value to the organization:

THIRD TIME ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

– Right-hander Matt Albers, arbitration eligible for the third time, signed a one-year, $1.075 million deal with the Sox. A year ago, he was non-tendered by the Orioles, who did not want to offer him arbitration coming off a year in which he made $680,000. That led Albers to sign with the Sox as a free agent. He was dominant for most of the first half, but endured horrific struggles in the season’s final two months, resulting in a year-end line of a 4-4 record and 4.73 ERA. Still, he struck out a career-high 9.3 batters per nine innings (to go with 4.3 walks per nine innings), and his stuff and his tremendous run through July were enough to convince the Sox to bring back the middle reliever. He remains under team control through the 2013 season.

SECOND-TIME ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

– Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be a second-time arbitration-eligible player. After a year in which he finished second in AL MVP balloting and won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger as the best offensive and defensive center fielder in the American League, he would appear likely to get a raise from the $2.4 million he earned in 2011 to something in the vicinity of $8 million in 2012. Ellsbury hit .321 with a .376 OBP, .552 slugging mark, .928 OPS, 32 homers, 39 steals and 105 RBI.

– Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, also eligible for salary arbitration for the second time, convinced the Sox that he was ready to be an everyday major league catcher. The 26-year-old hit .235 with a .288 OBP, .450 slugging mark and .737 OPS along with 16 homers and 56 RBI in 103 games. The 26-year-old will likely receive a salary bump from the $750,000 he received last year to something closer to $2 million.

FIRST-TIME ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

– Right-hander Alfredo Aceves is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. He was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 55 games (four starts) and 114 innings for the Sox. The fact that he has the best career winning percentage of all time (24-3, .889) for a pitcher through his first 25-plus starts certainly works in his favor. The Sox signed him to a one-year, $650,000 deal after he was non-tendered by the Yankees last offseason.

– Utilityman Mike Aviles is eligible for arbitration for the first time. The 30-year-old hit .317 with a .340 OBP, .436 slugging mark and .775 OPS in 38 games after the Sox acquired him from the Royals in a mid-season trade. He was paid $640,000 last year.

– Right-hander Daniel Bard, a so-called Super-2 player (meaning his service time ranks among the top 16 percent of players with more than two but fewer than three years of time in the majors), is arbitration eligible for the first time. He is coming off a year in which he set a Red Sox record for the most consecutive scoreless appearances, but in which he had a dreadful October, going 0-4 in the season’s final month. For the year, he was 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA despite the fact that opponents hit just .179 with a .546 OPS against him. Bard, who earned $505,000 last season, could see that salary triple at a time when he is getting stretched out for a potential move to the rotation.

– Shortstop/third baseman Jed Lowrie, 27, hit .252 with a .303 OBP, .382 slugging mark and .685 OPS along with six homers in 88 games. The 27-year-old, who made $450,000 in 2011, is arbitration eligible for the first time.

– Left-hander Franklin Morales falls into a very similar category as Miller. He is a left-hander with remarkable stuff that has more often than not proved a tease in the majors. Even so, he showed intriguing progress last year with the Sox, who acquired him from the Rockies for cash in the middle of the season. In 36 games with the Sox, Morales (who earned $424,000, just above the league minimum last year) had a 3.62 ERA while striking out 31 and, most notably, walking just 11 in 32 1/3 innings. Morales joins Miller and Felix Doubront as potential left-handers who are out of options; as such, the Sox will undoubtedly listen to trade offers involving any of the three.

PRE-ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

The following players, who are not yet arbitration eligible (meaning that the team has the right to set their contract values), were all tendered contracts by the Sox:

–RHP Michael Bowden

–LHP Drake Britton

–LHP Felix Doubront

–RHP Stolmy Pimentel

–RHP Junichi Tazawa

–RHP Kyle Weiland

–C Luis Exposito

–C Ryan Lavarnway

–1B Lars Anderson

–3B Will Middlebrooks

–2B Oscar Tejeda

–OF Ryan Kalish

–OF Che-Hsuan Lin

–OF Darnell McDonald

–OF Josh Reddick


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