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Changes in store for champs

Don't expect Red Sox to make sentimental decisions this offseason

Posted: Friday October 29, 2004 12:43PM; Updated: Friday October 29, 2004 12:43PM
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Cashing Out?
Boston's Key Potential Free Agents
Name Pos. 2004 Stats 2004 Salary
Pedro Martinez RHP 16-9, 3.90 $17.5M
Jason Varitek C .296, 18 HR, 73 RBIs $6.9M
Orlando Cabrera SS .264, 10 HR, 62 RBIs $6.0M
Derek Lowe RHP 14-12, 5.42 ERA $4.5M
Ramiro Mendoza RHP 2-1, 3.52 ERA $3.6M
Kevin Millar 1B .297, 18 HR, 74 RBIs $3.3M*
Scott Williamson RHP 0-1, 1.26 ERA $3.175M
Alan Embree LHP 2-2, 4.13 ERA, $3.0M^
Mike Timlin RHP 5-4, 4.13 ERA $2.5M+
Bill Mueller 3B .283, 12 HR, 57 RBIs $2.1M*
Pokey Reese INF .221, 3 HR, 29 RBIs $1.0M
Doug Mirabelli C .281, 9 HR, 32 RBIs $825,000
Gabe Kapler OF .272, 6 HR, 33 RBIs $750,000
+ $2.75 million team option
* $3.5 million mutual option
^ $3.0 million team option

ST. LOUIS -- The Red Sox were the bold-faced headline on the 2004 season, the town crier in Kenmore Square. The long-suffering franchise fought its way through a cursed history to deliver a World Series triumph to Red Sox Nation in a four-game sweep of the Cardinals.

Lost in all the hysteria around Boston's first World Series win in 86 years, though, is the fact that this thing wasn't just given to the Sox.

No. They paid for it. A lot.

The still-new Boston ownership and young general manager Theo Epstein have shown a willingness to spend wildly. Boston's payroll of more than $127 million in '04 was second only to the Yankees. It was almost as much as the other three teams in the American League East -- the Blue Jays, Orioles and Devil Rays -- combined.

The Red Sox felt they'd have to spend to keep up with the Yankees, so they went on a mission last offseason that was completed with Wednesday's Game 4 clincher. It started with the Sox grabbing closer Keith Foulke, paying him upwards of $20 million for three years. He came through with 32 saves, a 2.17 ERA and a nearly flawless postseason (one run in 14 innings).

The Sox traded for starter Curt Schilling and signed him to a contract extension, paying him $12 million in '04. He won 21 games with a 3.26 ERA, but it was his courageous postseason -- he won his last two starts with an ankle tendon stitched into place -- where Schilling really made his mark. Not to mention more money. His contract called for an extra $2 million if the Sox won the Series.

The Sox, like everyone else, have their share of offseason business to handle. No. 1 on the list is re-signing free agent Jason Varitek, the switch-hitting catcher who is considered the team's backbone. Varitek made $6.9 million last season and stands to command much more.

The Sox have to be in the market for a middle infielder, especially if free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera is swept away by someone else. The Sox could re-sign Pokey Reese, another free agent, who will come much cheaper but also doesn't produce nearly as well with the bat.

Those guys are just the under card. Much of the offseason news will center on Pedro Martinez, who twirled a gem in Game 3 of the Series. Martinez (16-9, 3.90 ERA in '04) is expensive -- the Sox picked up a $17.5 million option on him last season -- and there are concerns about his health, though he didn't miss a start in 2004. But he's still one of the top pitchers in the American League. He still can dominate.

For his part, Martinez knows he'll have to take a pay cut, somewhere down near $12 million or $13 million a year on a two-year deal. He'd probably settle for less money per year if he could squeeze an extra year out of a longer contract. The Yankees are said to be interested.

Then there's Derek Lowe, a one-time 21-game winner who suffered through an erratic regular season (14-12, 5.42 ERA). Lowe turned down a three-year, $27 million offer before the season but helped his cause by winning all three clinchers in the postseason. He also has a cost-saving advantage. He could be retained for less than half of what Martinez makes.

"I just hope the Red Sox will invite everyone back," Lowe said in the delirium of the post-Series clubhouse. "I'd like to come back."

Like most teams, the Sox face increases in salary for arbitration-eligible players, too. The Boston payroll will almost certainly grow. Already, the Sox own the distinction of having the highest payroll ever to win the World Series.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a single person in Boston today that doesn't believe the Sox are worth every penny of it.

John Donovan is a senior writer for SI.com.