Jason Varitek’s Future With Red Sox Hangs in Balance As Arbitration Deadline Approaches

The next major deadline on the offseason calendar comes at midnight Tuesday, when the Red Sox and the 29 other major league teams must decide whether to offer arbitration to their ranked (Type A or Type B) free agents.

By offering arbitration to one such player, a team heads down one of two paths. Either the player accepts arbitration and a one-year contract is worked out, or the team receives compensation in the form of draft picks if and when the player signs elsewhere. For a Type A free agent, that compensation could be as generous as a first-round pick and a supplemental pick following the first round, depending on where the signing club picks.

That could be a pretty good haul heading into a potentially loaded draft.

The deadline for players to either accept or turn down arbitration is Nov. 30. For Boston, some of the decisions are no-brainers. Others might require a little thought.

Here is a breakdown:

Adrian Beltre (Type A)
He is one of the no-brainers. If he shocks the world and accepts arbitration, then the Red Sox would have their third baseman for 2011 and would not have to worry about the long-term ramifications. Both sides could find happiness, at least for a year. If (when) he declines to stay on the market and eventually inks a multiyear deal with another team, then general manager Theo Epstein will have at least one high draft pick and maybe two. We know how much Epstein loves to play around with those.

Victor Martinez (Type A)
Everything that applies to Beltre applies to Martinez. He will be offered arbitration by the deadline.

Jason Varitek (Type B)
A player with pedigree who ranks high on several all-time Red Sox lists can carry a pretty good case to the bargaining table or arbitration hearing, despite the fact that his production has fallen off dramatically in the last two years. That might cause the organization to back away from Varitek. It’s rather clear he would like to stay with the team and if he is offered arbitration, he would most certainly accept it. Unless the club is still interested in retaining Varitek’s services, it might not want to risk the offer for a potential supplemental pick.

Felipe Lope (Type B)
When the Sox signed Lopez late in the season, it was done with the idea that he would decline arbitration and net the organization a draft pick. Still only 30, Lopez will probably want to sign with a team that gives him a chance to be a starter again. Then again, with the way Lopez has bounced around of late (six teams in four years) he might be OK taking the Sox up on their offer and waiting to see if that opportunity comes in Boston. If Beltre signs elsewhere and shortstop Marco Scutaro is traded, there could be a need for a guy like Lopez, even with Jed Lowrie in the mix. This one is a bit tougher to predict. Would Lopez accept the arbitration offer and hope for playing time before hitting the market again next offseason, or would he turn it down and look for a team that would give him a better chance to become a starter?

We will know more by midnight Tuesday.

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