Red Sox Have ‘Real Interest’ in All Six of Their Free Agents, According to Ben Cherington

Ben CheringtonBen Cherington acknowledged recently that it’s unlikely that all of the Red Sox’ current free agents will be back in 2014. But that’s not stopping Boston’s general manager from keeping the dialogue going.

Cherington told reporters on Monday at the GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla., that the Red Sox are continuing to talk with all six of their free agents — Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joel Hanrahan and John McDonald.

“There’s real interest in — at different levels — all six of our free agents,” Cherington told reporters. “We keep talking about four — I guess Hanrahan and John McDonald are in a slightly different category — but of the four guys who were active players on our team in the playoffs, we continue to have dialogue with all four.”

Hanrahan, who underwent season-ending arm surgeries, is unlikely to be ready for the start of the 2014 season, while McDonald played in just six games with the Red Sox down the stretch before being left off Boston’s postseason roster. Perhaps Cherington will continue to monitor their respective situations, but it’s the club’s four major free agents who are generating buzz this offseason.

The Red Sox offered $14.1 qualifying offers to Ellsbury, Drew and Napoli, but all three — to no surprise of Cherington — declined the offers to pursue more lucrative deals in free agency. The Sox can still negotiate with all three players, as well as Saltalamacchia, who was not tendered a qualifying offer, but Cherington wasn’t ready to reveal many details while speaking with reporters Monday.

“I’d rather not get into specifics of the conversations,” Cherington reportedly said. “We have real interest in all of them. We’ve shared information on what we’d be willing to do and gotten feedback from them.”

Ellsbury figures to be looking for a deal in excess of $100 million, while Drew, who is arguably the best infielder on the open market besides Robinson Cano, is believed to be drawing plenty of interest, which could perhaps lead to the shortstop receiving a multiyear deal elsewhere. According to multiple reports, the Red Sox have already begun discussing a multiyear deal with Napoli.

One of the Red Sox’ most interesting offseason storylines involves Saltalamacchia, who is coming off a strong regular season and a poor postseason. He, too, figures to garner plenty of interest from teams outside of Boston, and Cherington thinks that the catching market as a whole is one to keep an eye on this winter, especially since the Red Sox will be right in the thick of things.

“There are a bunch of teams that seemingly have a need or potential need and a bunch of guys out there,” Cherington reportedly said of the catching market. “It should be one of the more interesting positions to watch. There’s likely to be activity — potentially some trades too, not just free agents. Obviously it’s a position we’re going to keep talking to all available options and see what comes our way.”

The GM meetings — often viewed as the winter meetings’ little brother — will wrap up Wednesday. It’s unlikely that any major moves involving the Red Sox will occur before then, but it’s definitely clear that the page has officially been turned on 2013.

“I think by now everyone’s forgotten the World Series, and it’s on to the offseason work,” Cherington said.

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