David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez -- the team's three most productive hitters in 2010 -- are all potentially eligible for free agency.
Beltre and Martinez definitely will be on the open market. The Red Sox hold a club option of $12.5 million on Ortiz, who is one of the most revered sluggers in franchise history.
In Sunday's regular-season finale, Ortiz went 3-for-3. After a bunt single in the fifth, manager Terry Francona removed him for pinch-runner Josh Reddick. The Fenway fans gave Ortiz such a warm ovation that he came back out of the dugout for a curtain call.
"Papi had a great year again," said Epstein. "And he had the tough April and for the second straight year, because he is who he is, and because of the passion with which everyone follows this team, he had to sort of take a lot -- a big burden came with that, a burden of expectations and questioning. He did an unbelievable job setting that to the side and focusing on getting locked in at the plate, and he did, and he didn't get unlocked for about five months."
Last winter, Epstein stated that Ortiz needed to be a force if he was going to stay the team's DH. Ortiz lived up to that more, hitting 32 homers and driving in 102.
"So he put up terrific numbers, just about everything you can ask for from your designated hitter, and put up a really big year," Epstein said.
When will the Red Sox decide if they will pick up the option?
"Just as an organization policy, we take those things right out to the end," Epstein said. "Even if that weren't the case here, we haven't had a chance to sit down with David and his agents yet and talk to those guys, so that will happen some time between now and [five] days after the World Series, which I think is the new rule that Major League Baseball just came out with for all options. So we'll sit down, talk to him, and have those private discussions before we make anything public. But suffice it to say, we're certainly interested in having him back next year, and we'll sit down and talk it through. But it was another great year for him."
Martinez puts up production that is uncommon for catchers. But he might be looking for a longer-term deal than the Red Sox are willing to offer. If the circumstances are right, he would like to be back.
"There's no question. I wouldn't even need to think about it," Martinez said. "I said earlier, I want to be here, but now, that I got a chance to go out to free agency, [so] we'll see what happens."
Epstein certainly has no regrets about the trade that brought Martinez to Boston on July 31, 2009, and he'd like to see the relationship extend.
"I'll probably put that in the category of things we should just probably talk about with him because it touches upon negotiations and whatnot," Epstein said. "Vic's done an unbelievable job since he's been here. When we got him in a trade, we knew we were getting a first-class person and someone who prioritized winning and [was] a natural hitter, but I don't think we quite understood the impact he would have here. He's done a great job and we'd love to see the relationship continue. We'll see what happens."
Then there is Beltre, who was coming off perhaps his worst season in the Majors and made this year one of his best. There is no way he will exercise his $10 million player option.
"I think it will be an active market," Epstein said. "Adrian is a really good player. He did an incredible job for us this year. It was everything we could have hoped for and more. The toughness that he showed -- playing through some injuries, the consistency that he showed offensively and bringing his usual great defense to the table -- was really impressive. We're not the only one who saw that. Everyone else saw that. We'll see."
The Red Sox bought low on Beltre this past winter. To keep him, they will have to make a significant financial commitment.
"We can't dictate the timing. We'll negotiate with him and do everything we can to bring him back and keep the best interests of the club in mind at all times when it comes time to make a decision one way or the other," Epstein said. "He had a great year. He deserves to go out and be a free agent."