On Friday, November 30, one more step on the off-season's long path will have been taken. It's the non-tender deadline, meaning that players who are not under contract -- meaning, most of the Red Sox roster -- have to be tendered a contract in order to be retained. If they are non-tendered, then they become free agents.
Right now, the Red Sox have eight players on guaranteed contracts: John Lackey, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jose Iglesias, and this winter's free agent haul to this point, David Ross and Jonny Gomes. Everyone else is on a non-guaranteed deal. Some of these players are arbitration-eligible, such as Jacoby Ellsbury, while others are simply on the 40-man roster, set to make at or around the league minimum.
The Red Sox have to decide whether they will extend a contract offer to these players that they currently have rights to, those players who still have a season or seasons in their initial six years of service time left, by Friday's deadline. Most will be retained, no question, but there are a few on this list that could be unemployed come the end of November.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Salty is in no danger of being non-tendered, but he might also not be paid by the Red Sox in 2013. He's in the final year of arbitration, and Boston has Ryan Lavarnway and David Ross in tow as well. If Boston has faith in Lavarnway's defense taking a step forward to the point where he can call a major-league game regularly, then Salty is absolutely a goner. If not, he still might be, as he has just the one year left after all. It's possible he could be traded before Friday, since the Red Sox have been reportedly attempting to move him already this off-season. But this might be a situation that persists until Boston solves their first base issue, too, since that involves part-time backstop Mike Napoli.
Ryan Sweeney: If Sweeney isn't traded first as well, he's a good bet to be non-tendered. The Red Sox already have the less-expensive Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish on their 40-man roster, and there's a good chance both are better hitters, with the latter being roughly the defender to boot. Sweeney is in his final year of arbitration, and is set to receive the standard raise that comes with that, bringing him to roughly $2.4 million for 2013. That's not a lofty total, but it's money that doesn't need to be spent given the presence of other outfielders on the roster. That's without getting into Jerry Sands, or Boston's plan for the recently added Alex Hassan, or the potential for Bryce Brentz to finish the season on the 40-man, either.
Alfredo Aceves: He seemed like a possible bet to be non-tendered, but Boston likes his talent. As closer, his approach suffered, as Aceves lost command, sacrificing it for velocity. He is unlikely to start in 2013 -- especially since it would be seen as something of a reward for a pitcher who needs to prove he can be trusted -- but as a reliever who throws upwards of 100 innings, there's still a lot to like here. He's relatively inexpensive, too, as he's just in his second year of arbitration. He'll probably pull in $2 million or less through arbitration, probably closer to $1.75 million, and that's not a considerable amount to wager on a return to form.
Nor is it too much money to dump should Aceves continue to be something of a pouter who doesn't live up to his ability because he's unhappy with his role. That point is as important as the last, if not more.
Rich Hill: With Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller, and Craig Breslow aboard, Rich Hill might be non-tendered to free up a roster spot. He was a candidate to be designated for assignment, and he's out of options, so the only way to get him back in the minors without losing him on a waiver claim is to non-tender and then re-negotiate a minor-league deal. This is a road the Sox have been down before with Hill, and his tendency to get injured, combined with his affinity for Boston, might allow them to travel it once more.
The rest of the bunch are likely to be tendered, as they are inexpensive, have options, and in many cases, are awaiting their trial by fire in spring training to see which level they're starting 2013 at. It's also possible all four of those players above are still Red Sox through Friday, even if they might not stick on the roster all the way to spring training.
Contract data courtesy Cot's Contracts