At a year-end press conference to wrap up his team's championship season, Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters that the team will extend qualifying offers to free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. The Red Sox will not make a qualifying offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but Cherington expressed interest in bringing the catcher back to Boston.
With the one-year, $14.1 million offers in hand, Drew, Napoli and Ellsbury have until 5 PM EST next Monday to either accept or decline them. If they decline and sign elsewhere, the Sox will receive draft pick compensation in 2014.
Drew, who signed with the Sox last offseason on a one-year, $9.5 million contract, could accept the offer based on the assumpotion that he will likely not receive as much in average annual value on the open market. While Drew could look for a multi-year contract and playing time elsewhere, the high-dollar figure of a qualifying offer may be enticing enough for Drew to return to Boston.
Napoli, who hit .259 with 23 HR and 92 RBI on the season, will likely also consider returning to Boston on the one-year, $14.1 million deal. He is known to love the city and the fanbase, causing many to speculate that it will be hard for teams to pull him away from the Red Sox.
Ellsbury is widely considered to be the second best free agent available this winter, meaning that he will decline the qualifying offer and seek a high-dollar multi-year deal on the open market. The Red Sox will try to re-sign Ellsbury this winter, but the emergence of young outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. likely means that the team will not overpay to bring their incumbent center fielder back to Boston. Ellsbury is expected to draw interest from many teams, including the Mets, Yankees, Cubs and Mariners.
Saltalamacchia will also be a hot commodity on the free agent market, and is expected to draw interest from the many teams looking to add a catcher this offseason. The Sox have David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway already on the roster, and will also look at other options on the free agent market. By declining to make Saltalamacchia a qualifying offer, the Sox seem ready to move on from the 28-year old and fill the position with another available player.