Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Varitek turns down arbitration offer

Catcher eligible to sign with any team

By Ian Browne / MLB.com

LAS VEGAS — Free-agent catcher Jason Varitek declined arbitration from the Red Sox before Sunday night's midnight ET deadline, meaning he is still eligible to sign with all 30 Major League teams.

If Varitek had accepted Boston's offer, he would have been contractually bound to the Red Sox for the 2009 season.

Varitek is a Type A free agent, meaning the Red Sox will get two Draft picks as compensation should he sign with another team.

Figuring out the catching situation remains a top priority of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein at the Winter Meetings, which officially start on Monday in Las Vegas.

There's still a chance Varitek -- Boston's starting catcher since 1999 -- will be part of that situation. In fact, an ideal scenario for the Red Sox would be retaining Varitek and acquiring a younger catcher who could ultimately serve as his successor.

"That's a desirable outcome," Epstein said last week. "We also have catchers-in-waiting in the Minor Leagues who are talented, but maybe not quite ready to step into a prominent role right now. We'll see. I'm confident that we'll find a way to end up with a reputable catching core that we hope will not only have us set up for 2009, but also in the future."