BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will face an important deadline when midnight ET strikes at the end of Monday, as he must decide by then whether to extend arbitration offers to his six-year free agents.
The only Type A free agent from the Red Sox is catcher Jason Varitek. By offering Varitek arbitration, Boston would guarantee itself two Draft picks should another team sign the captain.
Boston's only Type B free agent is starter Paul Byrd. If the Red Sox offer Byrd arbitration, they would get one Draft pick -- in the sandwich round -- should the righty go elsewhere.
As for the team's other free agents -- Mark Kotsay, Alex Cora, Sean Casey, Curt Schilling, Mike Timlin, Bartolo Colon and David Ross -- they will also find out if arbitration has been offered.
But the club's decision isn't as significant for those players because they aren't ranked free agents. This means that even if the Red Sox offer them arbitration and the players go elsewhere, Boston wouldn't get any compensatory picks.
Players who are offered arbitration must inform the club by midnight at the end of Dec. 7 whether they have accepted the offer. Players who accept arbitration then become contractually bound to that team for the following season.
It is a near given that the Red Sox will extend an arbitration offer to Varitek because of the obvious perk of receiving the picks should he leave. It is all but certain that Varitek would not accept Boston's arbitration offer, which gives Epstein all the more motivation to offer it. Varitek, who is 36, will likely seek a multiyear deal, whether it is from the Red Sox, the team he has started for since 1999, or another team.
With Byrd, it's not quite as clear-cut. The Red Sox might not have room in their starting rotation for the crafty righty, who was acquired for depth purposes last August when Boston went through a spell of injuries.
And if the Red Sox offer Byrd arbitration and he accepts, they could wind up bringing a player to Spring Training who doesn't really fit into their plans.
Of course, Epstein will be just as interested in what other teams do with their free agents. If there are any Type A free agents across the game who aren't extended arbitration offers, they could be signed without the acquiring team being forced to cough up Draft picks.
If the Red Sox sign a Type B free agent from another team, they would not have to give up a Draft pick even if the player was not offered arbitration by his former team.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.