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The Boston Red Sox and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury agreed Friday to a one-year deal worth $9 million, avoiding arbitration.Ellsbury, who missed 79 games last season with a shoulder injury, will get a slight raise from the $8.05 million he was paid in 2012, when his salary jumped by $6 million after a 2011 season in which he finished runner-up in the AL MVP race. The 29-year-old Ellsbury put up much more modest numbers last season, hitting .271 with four homers and a .682 OPS in limited action. Ellsbury is set to hit free agency next offseason. A much bigger payday awaits him if he nears his 2011 form, when he hit .321 with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and a .928 OPS. If that happens, agent Scott Boras can be expected to push Ellsbury into the $20 million to $25 million per-year range that outfielders Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford currently make. It is for that reason the Red Sox and Boras have not engaged in talks regarding a contract extension. Having missed so much time, Ellsbury needs to show he deserves to be near the top of baseball's salary bracket; the Red Sox wouldn't think of paying him at that level now. There will be no salary arbitration drama this winter for the Red Sox, who have made a point of keeping it that way for more than a decade. Rolando Arrojo in 2002 was the last Red Sox player to go to an arbitration hearing. David Ortiz flirted with the idea last winter, settling only hours before his hearing was scheduled to be held.
The Sox began this arbitration season with nine players eligible. They have reached agreements with eight -- catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Thursday, the other seven, including Ellsbury, on Friday -- inflating their 2013 payroll by just more than $32 million in the process.
Only one arbitration-eligible player remains unsigned -- left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, and he and the club are only $50,000 apart in the figures they submitted. That's the lowest spread of any of the 36 arbitration-eligible players who remain unsigned, according to the Associated Press. Breslow is asking for $2.375 million. The Red Sox offered $2.325 million.
One other Red Sox player, reliever Alfredo Aceves, actually reached the stage of swapping figures, according to the AP, but quickly came to agreement on a $2.65 million deal, the midpoint between what Aceves had sought and the team was offering.
The arbitration process was good for newly acquired closer Joel Hanrahan, an All-Star in Pittsburgh the last two years, whose salary jumped to $7.04 million from the $4.1 million he was paid last season. Hanrahan remains under Red Sox control for one more year before he is eligible for free agency in 2014.
Andrew Bailey, the man Hanrahan replaces as closer, was on a similar salary track, having been paid $3.9 million after the second of two All-Star years with Oakland. But like Ellsbury, Bailey was derailed by injury, and in his second year of arbitration eligibility, when ordinarily he could have expected a major bump, Bailey signed for $4.1 million.
Other Sox arbitration-eligible players who signed were Daniel Bard ($1.8625 million), Andrew Miller ($1.475 million), Franklin Morales ($1.4875 million) and Saltalamacchia ($4.5 million).