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Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli to receive one-year qualifying offer from Red Sox; Jarrod Saltalamacchia likely won’t receive one

11.04.13 at 10:05 am ET
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According to multiple baseball sources, the Red Sox plan to make a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Stephen Drew and first baseman Mike Napoli by the 5 p.m. deadline to do so today.

If any of those players accepts the qualifying offer (which represents the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball in 2013), then he would return to the Red Sox on a one-year deal in 2014. If any of them signs with a team other than the Sox, then because of the qualifying offer, the Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds of the draft.

Ellsbury is expected not to be impacted significantly by the qualifying offer, given that he is expected to command a long-term deal whose annual value exceeds the $14.1 million mark by a considerable amount. Napoli and Drew represent somewhat different cases for whom the impact of the qualifying offer is twofold.

Not only does it ensure that the Sox would receive a draft pick if the first baseman or shortstop leave; by virtue of the fact that a team that signs Napoli or Drew would need to give up a draft pick, it also could decrease the market for their services, thus potentially increasing the likelihood that the Sox will be able to bring one or both back, whether if either accepts a one-year qualifying offer or if either can negotiate a multi-year deal, much as David Ortiz did last offseason after turning down the Sox’ qualifying offer. (In that vein, it’s worth noting that the Sox were pleasantly surprised when Napoli didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Rangers last offseason; the fact that he would not cost the team a draft pick made him a top priority with whom to negotiate in the free agent market, given the opportunity to acquire a player with considerable power and strong on-base percentages who could be acquired for just money, rather than any sacrifice of the team’s prospect pool.)

Ellsbury, who turned 30 in September, hit .298 with a .355 OBP, .426 slugging mark, nine homers and a major league-leading 52 steals (in 56 attempts) in 134 games, then returned from a non-displaced fracture of his right foot to hit .344/.408/.438 with six steals in seven attempts while starting every game of the postseason. In parts of seven big league seasons, Ellsbury — the 2011 AL MVP runner-up — has hit .297/.350/.439 while averaging 55 steals per 162 games.

Napoli hit .259 with a .360 OBP and .482 slugging mark along with 23 homers and 92 RBI in 139 games for the Sox in 2013 while playing what manager John Farrell characterized as Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. He initially reached agreement with the Sox on a three-year, $39 million deal, but after a routine physical revealed a degenerative condition in his hips, he and the Sox renegotiated a one-year deal. Napoli showed no signs of being impacted by the avascular necrosis during the year, however, resulting in his improved negotiating position now.

Drew, signed as a free agent to a one-year, $9.5 million deal last offseason, hit .253/.333/.443 with 13 homers in 124 games for the Red Sox, numbers that were close to his career line of .264/.329/.435. Though he struggled offensively in the postseason, he remained entrenched as the Sox’ everyday shortstop thanks to consistently strong defense in the postseason. Based on his offense and defense, one talent evaluator described the 30-year-old last week as a top 10 shortstop in the majors.

Meanwhile, according to multiple industry sources, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is unlikely to receive a qualifying offer. The 28-year-old hit .273/.338/.466 in 121 games in the regular season. While the Sox have interest in discussing a new deal with the catcher, the team ultimately felt that a one-year, $14.1 million offer represented too great of an overpay if the catcher accepted it. Saltalamacchia is now free to negotiate with all 30 teams (again, including the Sox), and the fact that he will not cost a team that signs him a draft pick could heat up his market.

The Sox gave considerable thought to the possibility of extending a qualifying offer to Saltalamacchia as the season progressed, but the team was uncomfortable with the idea of giving the qualifying offer to Napoli, Drew and Saltalamacchia, feeling that its hands would be tied in terms of the rest of its offseason in the admittedly unlikely scenario in which all three players accepted.

Read More: free agency, jarrod saltalamacchia, mike napoli, qualifying offer
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