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Lining up who will be here in 2004

Even though he went unclaimed on waivers yesterday, Manny Ramirez probably has about as much chance of being the Red Sox' Opening Day left fielder on April 5 as Grady Little has of being manager. As we enter the "silly season," John Harrington's label for the months of speculation, rumor-mongering, and disinformation that starts up as soon as the games end -- and let's not forget Harrington was the hard-line negotiator who deemed Ramirez worthy of $160 million -- here are one man's projections for the Sox roster:

Pedro Martinez -- He demanded and got his $17.5 million option for 2004 last spring, which might rank as his greatest achievement in 2003. He'll go into next season pitching for his next contract, which he'll likely get not from the Sox, but from the highest bidder. The Sox will offer him short years at short money, and he'll say adios. There is also this: A major league executive -- a ubiquitous term at this time of year -- said yesterday that the Sox are letting it be known that they would deal Martinez, an unthinkable proposition in the past. They almost certainly would have to eat some salary to do so.

Derek Lowe -- He's lined up high-powered agent Scott Boras to represent him; the Sox informed Boras they will pick up his option, a bargain at $4.5 million, and have told him they will talk about an extension. With Boras, there will be no hometown discount.

Tim Wakefield -- He deserved a better fate than being Game 7 loser in the American League Championship Series. He has two years left on his contract; he's not going anywhere.

John Burkett -- Free agent, one step closer to joining pro bowlers tour. Won't be back.

Bronson Arroyo -- Waiver pickup from Pirates showed sufficient promise to warrant a shot at winning back-of-the-rotation spot. He'll be in the bullpen mix, too.

Alan Embree -- He's under contract for next season ($3 million).

Casey Fossum -- He had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and doesn't have the trade value he had at this time a year ago. General manager Theo Epstein, who balked at trading him last winter, won't have similar qualms this winter, but if he's still here, he'll compete for a job as No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Bob Howry -- Sox won't pick up his $2.5 million option.

Todd Jones -- Free agent, won't be back.

Byung Hyun Kim -- Arbitration-eligible. At $3.25 million in 2003, it's debatable whether Sox want to pay him $5 million to start. Could be a nontender.

Brandon Lyon -- He'll compete for a middle relief spot.

Ramiro Mendoza -- Huge disappointment this season, Sox still owe him $3 million next year. He'll be virtually impossible to move.

Robert Person -- Free agent, gone.

Scott Sauerbeck -- Arbitration-eligible, good possibility of being nontendered.

Jeff Suppan -- Sox did not exercise $4 million option. Already negotiating with Pirates about a possible return to Pittsburgh.

Mike Timlin -- Free agent. As well as he pitched this season, Sox might explore younger options, although they're talking to his agent.

Scott Williamson -- Arbitration-eligible. After being paid $1.6 million, showed enough at end of season to justify raise in 2004. Potential closer candidate.

Jason Varitek -- Last year of contract calls for him to be paid $6.8 million in 2004. Epstein has told agent Boras they will discuss an extension. Heart and soul of this team.

Doug Mirabelli -- Arbitration-eligible, Mirabelli probably gets one more year before Kelly Shoppach is ready.

Nomar Garciaparra -- Most intriguing suspense story of the winter. Sox ownership has pledged to make every effort to re-sign him, but while Garciaparra has told the Sox he wants to come back after his contract expires in 2004 ($11.5 million salary next season), the Sox still have some doubts. Plus, in a different economic environment, what is fair-market value for Nomar when Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are being paid in the $19 million-$20 million-plus range? The air is already thick with rumors the Sox might make a run at A-Rod if they can shed salary in Ramirez and/or Martinez, though some of that dough would have to go for an elite starting pitcher. One team source downplayed that scenario and Texas owner Tom Hicks has insisted he won't trade A-Rod, but Hicks is facing some big financial hits with his hockey team because of a looming shutdown of the sport, and because of the large debt service on American Airlines Arena. And consider this: Two sources said this week that Garciaparra and future bride Mia Hamm plan to make their home in Texas. Hmmmm. A-Rod is the definition of a franchise player, and while he wouldn't give the Sox the payroll flexibility they hold so dear, he would give this franchise a very attractive face.

Jeremy Giambi -- Huge disappointment. Will not be re-signed.
Damian Jackson -- Arbitration-eligible. Sox may not be willing to bump utilityman over the $1 million mark. Could be a nontender.

Lou Merloni -- Arbitration-eligible. Merloni once again faces a doubtful future here.

Kevin Millar -- Scheduled to be paid $3.3 million next season. Sox disappointed in his performance after the All-Star break (.251, 11 HRs, 35 RBIs). Sox could use an upgrade defensively at first base; he could end up playing more outfield and DH if Ramirez is moved.

Bill Mueller -- AL batting champion is a tremendous bargain at $2.1 million, as Epstein wisely gave him a two-year deal. Could move from third base to second, depending on whether Sox add third baseman or second baseman.

David Ortiz -- Another great bargain at $1.25 million, Ortiz can expect raise to around $3 million in arbitration, though he'll be seeking an extension. Sox unlikely to give him more than a two-year deal.

Todd Walker -- Wonderful in the postseason, this free agent proved too much of a defensive liability to come back, especially at the $4 million-$5 million range.

Johnny Damon -- He's owed $16 million over the next two seasons, which automatically makes him a player the Sox would be willing to entertain offers for. With Mike Cameron a free agent and Carlos Beltran trade bait in Kansas City, market for Damon probably isn't a big one.

Gabe Kapler -- He made $3.425 million and is arbitration-eligible, which means he probably will be moving on unless he's willing to stay at a big discount.

Trot Nixon -- Arbitration-eligible at $4 million, he's likely to move into $6 million-$7 million range next season, his last before free agency. He has considerable trade value, so Sox will listen to offers.

Manny Ramirez -- As hard as it is to conceive that the Sox can keep their highest-paid player when he openly wishes to be a Yankee, the Sox will have to swallow hard and eat a big chunk of salary to move him.

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