At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, December 19, 2005

Happy Arbitration Decision Day!

For those of you keeping score at home, today is the day that teams must either offer arbitration to their free agents or kiss them goodbye, and the day players to whom arbitration has been offered must decide whether to accept or decline. Players who accept are then considered to be re-signed by their clubs; those who decline still may negotiate with their teams, but only until January 8, after which they cannot do so again until May 1.

In Red Sox land, this means we will soon know the formal fate of both Johnny Damon and Tony Graffanino. Damon, of course, has already been offered a contract by the Sox and almost certainly will take a pass. Graffanino, on the other hand, likely will accept, says today’s Boston Herald, a decision that would be surprising considering his second-base job apparently has been taken by newly-acquired Mark Loretta.

This is an important day because those players who are not given the opportunity for arbitration are then available to any team willing and able to strike a deal. Let us not forget that this is the route by which David Ortiz joined the Red Sox, so it is a notable occasion indeed.

By this time tomorrow, we’ll know what the pickin’s will be. But for today, it appears that the list may include several potentially useful candidates for the Sox to consider. The most significant of these may be left-handed first-baseman Hee Seop Choi, who could be a worthy platoon-mate for Kevin Youkilis, who by all accounts will be given every shot at the starter’s job at the position. Whatever happens, don’t dismiss tonight’s midnight deadline as a mere bit of administrivia. Some very important holes may soon be filled by the names soon to come.

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