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Ben Cherington: Red Sox negotiations with Jacoby Ellsbury unlikely until after season

Boston's general manager bothered to say it, so don't expect a surprise extension mid-season.

J. Meric

Red Sox center fielder is a free agent after this season. If Boston chose to, they could fit Ellsbury in their budget and future plans, but all signs have pointed towards that not happening, especially given that his agent is Scott Boras, and if Ellsbury rebounds from his slow start, the offers should roll in. It's obvious enough that Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has gone on the record saying that the two sides are unlikely to begin negotiations until after the season:

"Because Ellsbury has gone through arbitration the last three years, there's been an opportunity to talk to [agentScott Boras] and Jacoby each of those years in the winter before spring training or early in spring training about his status. And each of those years we've signed a one-year deal and settled his arb case before it went to a hearing.

But during those talks, you talk about a lot of things. You talk about other options, other contract options, other sorts of scenarios," said Cherington. "We've had those conversations. It's just, in this case, we agreed before the season that we would defer it until the end of the season. That's our expectation right now. You never say never. Things can change. But our expectation is we pick up the conversation after the season."

It's not necessarily new information, but the Red Sox do tend to keep their plans tightly sealed, or, at least, don't announce them on the radio. That maybe gives you an indication of how set in stone the plan to wait until after the season is, given all the variables involved, despite the "never say never" slapped on the end there.

With Jackie Bradley Jr. already on the 40-man roster, and Daniel Nava seemingly coming into his own at the big-league level, the need for retaining Ellsbury is potentially lessened, especially with Shane Victorino under contract for another two years. It's not impossible the Red Sox sign Ellsbury, of course, but it's certainly a slimmer prospect today than it was two months ago, and if Nava keeps at it, it might become slimmer yet.

One thing has become a little clearer in the season's first two months. A mid-season trade of Ellsbury probably isn't something the Red Sox will entertain if they continue to play as they have, as having him around in the lineup and outfield is a boost to their 2013 chances, and they can always submit a qualifying offer to him in order to earn an extra first-round pick and subsequent increased draft budget if he goes elsewhere. If they had started out more like in 2012, unable to stay over .500 for very long, it might be a different story.

There's still time for something to go awry, of course, but things, as of now, look good in terms of their record and Ellsbury sticking around through the season.

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