Red Sox Non-Tender 6 Players, Choose to Keep 15

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Saturday night was the deadline for the Red Sox to offer contracts to all of their unsigned players on the 40-man roster. The team choose not to tender a contract to six of those players, who then became unrestricted free agents.

The six non-tendered Sox were Edwin Almonte, Damian Jackson, Gabe Kapler, Lou Merloni, Scott Sauerbeck, and Jason Shiell.

The team's decision meant the end of Boston tenures for Jackson, Merloni, and Sauerbeck, but the team hopes to resign Almonte, Kapler, and Shiell before Christmas.

With Jeff Suppan's signing in St. Louis, Sauerbeck's departure means that the Red Sox have nothing to show for the trade of top-prospect Freddy Sanchez to Pittsburgh last July. Neither Suppan or Sauerbeck pitched effectively after coming over from the Pirates, and Sanchez would have been the logical choice at second base had he remained with the club in 2004. Sauerbeck was 0-1 with a 6.48 ERA in 26 games with Boston.

The release of Jackson and Merloni were inevitable after the Red Sox acquired Mark Bellhorn from Colorado, and with the expected signing of Pokey Reese.

Jackson played in 109 games and hit .261 with 16 stolen bases, while Merloni played sparingly after being reacquired from San Diego on August 28.

The Red Sox claimed Almonte, a right-hander reliever, off waivers in November from the Mets. As a rookie, he had an 11.12 ERA in 12 appearances for New York, and is an outside shot to make the roster as a long reliever.

Kapler played all three outfield positions and was an important role player off the bench after Boston claimed him off waivers from the Rockies in June. He hit .291 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 68 games. Kapler has expressed his desire to remain with Boston, even at a sharply reduced salary from the $3.4 million he was paid in 2003.

Shiell split last season between Pawtucket and Boston, where he was 2-0 with a 4.63 ERA in 17 games.

The Red Sox did tender contracts to 15 players, including Byung-Hyun Kim, David Ortiz, Trot Nixon, and Scott Williamson.

Kim, Ortiz, and Nixon figure prominently in the team's 2004 plans, but Williamson will be dealt. At Williamson's request, GM Theo Epstein is in the process of trying to trade him to a team where he will have an opportunity to be a starter or closer.

The other players tendered were minor leaguers Bronson Arroyo, Jamie Brown, Andy Dominique, Jerome Gamble, Colter Bean, Lenny Dinardo, Anastacio Martinez, Bryan Hebson, Mark Malaska, Phil Seibel, and Kevin Youkilis.

Arroyo, Malaska, and Youkilis are the three of the minor league group most likely to make an impact in 2004. Arroyo is a lock to join the bullpen, while the left-handed Malaska was claimed off waivers from the Devil Rays to replace Sauerbeck. Youkilis is the team's top hitting prospect and will begin the year at AAA-Pawtucket.

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