Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury agree to deal
BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury didn't get the American League's MVP trophy, but as a consolation prize, this may do.
The Red Sox center fielder, who was runner-up to Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander in the MVP balloting, came to terms Tuesday with the Sox on a one-year, 8.05 million contract, according to major league sources. That more than tripled the $2.4 million salary Ellsbury was paid last year after missing most of the 2010 season with fractured ribs.
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Ellsbury batted .321 (.376 OBP) with 32 home runs, 39 stolen bases, 105 RBIs and a career-high slugging percentage of .552. Those numbers were good enough for his second-place finish to Verlander, and if the Red Sox had not collapsed in September and missed the playoffs, he might have walked away with the trophy.
The deal, which was announced on the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to swap salary figures in advance of a possible hearing, was the second highest award the Sox have ever given to a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility, behind only Jonathan Papelbon ($9.3 million in 2010).
According to general manager Ben Cherington, the two sides did not discuss a multiyear deal as part of the negotiations. Ellsbury is represented by agent Scott Boras.
"Happy to get a deal worked out!" Ellsbury wrote on Twitter. "Excited to get to Spring Training and help the #RedSox get back on top!!"
The Red Sox did not go to a single salary arbitration hearing with a player while Theo Epstein was general manager, a streak that Cherington, who already has seven arbitration-eligible players under contract, undoubtedly would like to continue. Striking a deal with Ellsbury is a major step in that direction, although challenges remain.
The Red Sox exchanged salary numbers with four players Tuesday, most notably David Ortiz, the Sox designated hitter who in December accepted salary arbitration after rejecting a two-year, $18 million offer from the club.
On Tuesday, Ortiz submitted a salary figure of $16.5 million, while the club came in at $12.65 million, a modest raise over the $12.5 million Ortiz was paid in 2011 and nearly $4 million less than Ortiz is seeking. Often a settlement is reached somewhere around the midpoint, but Ortiz could gamble that an arbitration panel would decide that the Red Sox low-balled him and choose his number in a hearing.
The other arbitration-eligible Sox players to exchange salary numbers were pitchers Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard and Andrew Bailey, the newly acquired closer from Oakland. Aceves, Bard and Bailey all are arbitration-eligible for the first time.
The Red Sox haven't participated in an arbitration hearing since 2002. Bard asked for $1.825 million while the team offered $1.4 million; Aceves filed for $1.6 million, with the Sox submitting $950,000; and Bailey is seeking $4.7 million, while the Red Sox are countering at $3.35 million.
In those cases, a hearing will be scheduled for sometime during the first three weeks of February. The sides will be permitted to negotiate until the hearing. If the case goes to a hearing, the sides will make their arguments before an arbitration panel, which will choose one or the other salary figure.
Ortiz's $12.5 million salary last season, which placed him behind three players who primarily were designated hitters: Michael Young ($16 million), Jorge Posada ($13.1 million) and Travis Hafner ($13 million). All three were being paid under multiyear contracts they signed when they primarily were position players, but it is reasonable to assume that Ortiz's agent, Fernando Cuza, will use them as comparables when preparing Ortiz's case.
Cuza also could point to the average annual value of $14 million that White Sox DH Adam Dunn received when he signed a four-year, $56 million deal last winter; Dunn proceeded to have one of the worst seasons ever by a major-league hitter. All of which is why the Red Sox retain interest in persuading Ortiz to agree to a two-year deal at a lower annual average value than he figures to receive in arbitration.
Splitting the difference between the figures submitted by Ortiz and the Red Sox would put them at around $14.5 million.
Of the others, Bailey, the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star with Oakland, will get the biggest raise. Bailey, who was paid $465,000 last season, won't get the kind of bump the man he replaced, Papelbon, got in his first year of arbitration -- Papelbon went from $775,000 to a then-record $6.25 million.
Ellsbury and Mike Aviles, who came to terms on a $1.2 million deal Tuesday, became the sixth and seventh arbitration-eligible players to come to terms with the Red Sox this winter. The others are Franklin Morales ($850,000), Andrew Miller ($1.04 million), Matt Albers ($1.075 million), Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($2.5 million) and Ryan Sweeney ($1.75 million), the newly acquired outfielder from Oakland.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
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