Red Sox stars head toward free agency

Updated: September 30, 2011, 2:02 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- It's too early in the offseason for the Boston Red Sox to start considering the status of free agents David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon.

Both were major contributors for the Sox this season and both will be looking for multiyear deals at big bucks. Whether they remain with the club remains to be seen, but general manager Theo Epstein said during the team's postmortem news conference that he would like to have both back in 2012.

"I can't say too much about that now except the general and the obvious that we'd love to have both guys back if there's a way to do that," Epstein said. "They've been huge contributors here, not only on the field but as leaders."

Ortiz was consistent all season and finished with a .309 average, 29 homers and 96 RBIs in 146 games. The team's designated hitter will turn 36 on Nov. 18 and he has made it no secret he wants a long-term contract with Boston. He made $12.5 million in 2011 after the club exercised its option last winter.

"I think David's been (a leader) for a long time. He's been the face of the franchise and instrumental figure in our clubhouse," Epstein said.

Papelbon picked up 31 saves this season and became the first pitcher ever to record 30-plus saves in his first six full seasons in the big leagues. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, he'll be remembered for his blown save and loss in Wednesday's final game of the season against the Baltimore Orioles.

Papelbon said following that loss that he wouldn't let that moment define his season or his career. When asked if he wanted to remain with the Red Sox, he said that would take care of itself during the offseason. Papelbon, who has signed a series of one-year contracts in his time with Boston, was paid $12 million this season.

Before Papelbon left Fenway Parkon Thursday afternoon he spoke with Epstein.

"I actually told Pap earlier today that he took his overall game to a new level this year, not just on the field, but he demonstrated leadership capabilities," Epstein said. "There was a time earlier in his career where I never thought I would say that about Pap, but he really matured. He grew up a Red Sox and I was proud with the way he took that next step to lead by example. We'd love to keep both guys if we could."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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