BOSTON -- The Red Sox still hold out hope that Jason Bay can be their left fielder in 2010 and beyond. But by offering the star slugger arbitration Tuesday, the club secured compensatory Draft picks in the event Bay -- a Type A free agent -- signs on with another team.
In addition, Boston offered arbitration to its other Type A free agent -- veteran reliever Billy Wagner. That move seemed to pay dividends almost immediately, as Wagner has reportedly reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Braves.
A significant part of the allure the Red Sox had in acquiring Wagner from the Mets in August was the chance to gain Draft picks if he signed somewhere else. The Red Sox have an All-Star closer in Jonathan Papelbon. Wagner, showing no effects from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, helped propel Boston to a postseason berth by pitching magnificently as a setup man in front of Papelbon.
Both Bay and Wagner must notify the Red Sox by Monday if they will accept or decline the team's arbitration offer. There is no doubt Bay will decline, as he will land a multiyear deal on the open market, be it with the Red Sox or someone else.
If Bay accepted the club's arbitration offer, it would mean they were contractually bound to the Red Sox for 2010.
The Red Sox did not offer arbitration to their other three free agents -- outfielder Rocco Baldelli, right-hander Paul Byrd and utility infielder Chris Woodward. None of those players were ranked free agents, meaning the Red Sox could not have solidified any Draft compensation by offering them arbitration. It is unlikely Byrd or Woodward factor into the team's 2010 plans, but Baldelli could resurface depending on how the rest of the outfield shapes up.
Boston likes Baldelli's thump from the right side and his selfless attitude, but a rare muscle fatigue disorder sometimes makes him a question mark from a health standpoint.
As the Red Sox pointed out in a press release announcing their arbitration decisions, "Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, clubs retain the right to negotiate and/or enter into a contract agreement with any of their free agents, regardless of whether arbitration was offered. There are no deadlines for such negotiations and/or agreements."
Bay finished second in the American League with 119 RBIs in 2009 and clubbed 36 homers. Wagner went 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 15 games for Boston, notching 22 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.