Schilling, Sox close

Righthander could re-sign with team as early as today

Email|Print| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / November 6, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. - A few of the general managers licking their chops at the opportunity to have Curt Schilling in the open market were wondering why the Red Sox wouldn't re-sign him.

"It just seemed like a no-brainer, given the lack of pitching out there," said a National League GM. "You can sign him for a year; if it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out. But he can pitch still, and I know what he means to that team."

Sometime today, barring a last-minute snafu, Schilling is expected to finalize a deal to stay with the Sox. According to a major league source with knowledge of the negotiations, most of the terms have been agreed to; there might be some incentives that are being finalized. Schilling was known to be seeking a salary of $13 million.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who is here for the general managers' meetings, had said yesterday that "we're moving the ball forward a little bit" on talks with both Schilling and Mike Lowell but would not get into specifics. Offers apparently were made to both players.

Schilling wrote on his website, "Talks with the Red Sox are moving. Theo and I have spoken multiple times daily over the past week, and given the current situation, I am feeling very confident that we will be able to finalize a 1-year contract to allow us a chance to finish our career as members of the Red Sox organization.

"There are some things to iron out and details that must be finalized for both sides, but barring something unforeseen or outrageously odd happening, I feel very comfortable that I will finish my career here."

The big thing the Red Sox want to see is the veteran righthander's dedication in the workout room this offseason, something that was lacking last season. Many baseball officials believe that if Schilling can get back into top shape, his velocity could increase from the mid to high 80s that he usually reaches now.

The Red Sox value Schilling's tutelage with younger members of the pitching staff and think he can continue to make Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz better.

In 24 starts this past season, Schilling went 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA. In the playoffs, he went 3-0 in four starts, with a 3.00 ERA.

If Schilling rejoins the ranks, the Sox will have Matsuzaka, Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Tim Wakefield, and Schilling, as well as Julian Tavarez on the roster. Epstein said the team is not concerned by the sore shoulder Wakefield developed late in the season, as his medical tests came out favorably and a full recovery is expected.

Epstein also has scheduled a few trade-talk meetings, likely for today, and while he was not specific about the teams or players involved, it is clear Coco Crisp will be the focal point of most of Boston's talks this offseason.

Three GMs yesterday indicated their interest in talking to the Sox about Crisp. The Twins, Rangers, White Sox, Phillies, Astros, Braves, and Padres all are known to have some level of interest, and there are likely more. The White Sox, in need of a more high-profile player, might be pursuing a deal with the Yankees for Johnny Damon, and might be willing to deal third baseman Joe Crede.

While Epstein reiterated that he won't necessarily trade Crisp, several teams need center fielders, and some don't want to pay the high ransom for free agents Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, or even the suspended Mike Cameron.

"We'd be crazy to deplete that depth just for the sake of making a deal," Epstein said. "As is the case every offseason, we'll explore our options. Unless there's a significant return, I don't foresee a trade in that area.

"That said, there may be teams out there willing to give a significant return, given the quality of players we're talking about and the market."

Epstein said the Sox are interested in bringing back veteran reliever Mike Timlin on a team-friendly deal, and that the entire coaching staff will return. He mentioned in particular how thrilled he was that he was able to retain John Farrell as pitching coach.

The GM also said manager Terry Francona will not receive a contract extension here at these meetings, but the "nuts and bolts" of a new deal likely will begin when Epstein returns to Boston next week. Francona, he said, is aware of the timetable.

Epstein again tried to avoid the topic of Alex Rodriguez, saying he had not yet talked to agent Scott Boras, though he expected to. However, he cautioned that any meeting with Boras might not necessarily involve a discussion of You Know Who; Boras often likes to discuss his current clients on the team - which include Tavarez, Eric Gagné, Jason Varitek, Matsuzaka, and J.D. Drew - while also going through his roster of available free agents.

Epstein would not say whether Farrell, whom the Pirates wanted to interview as a managerial candidate, received a financial boost to stay.

"He was a major contributor this year," Epstein said. "It means a lot to us. He was really enamored with the environment. It's a big relief for the organization.

"Personally, this was the best major league coaching staff I've ever been around. I thought they had a profound impact on our results this year.

"I think [Farrell] can do anything he wants to do in this game. I think he could be a manager and maybe with a little bit of time, he could be a general manager as well. He's very dynamic."

Epstein also addressed the backup catcher situation and kidded that he likely would assign the task of finding one to his assistants, Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington. He didn't rule out Doug Mirabelli or Kevin Cash returning, nor did he say that the backup will be Wakefield's personal catcher.

"It's interesting, because I think the industry is looking for catching," Epstein said. "There's that perception out there that we desperately need to find Jason's successor. Personally, I think Jason has a lot of catching left.

"We have pretty good minor league catching. [George] Kottaras, he obviously really struggled in the first half. What he did in the second half, it's pretty promising. Dusty Brown has taken huge strides forward.

"Both of those guys have a chance to be at Triple A next year. Both guys have legitimate chances to play in the big leagues. A bit further down we have Mark Wagner, who had an excellent year in the California League."

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