BOSTON -- The Red Sox, hopeful that Matt Albers' late-season collapse was a result of overuse and not because American League hitters figured him out, re-signed the reliever Monday night to a one-year, $1.075 million contract. The deal accomplished two things: Albers avoided the fate he experienced last season, when he was nontendered by the Orioles, and the Red Sox avoided arbitration with the 28-year-old right-hander.
Albers was a pleasant surprise in the season's first half (2.09 ERA and .213 opponents' batting average in 35 appearances) and spectacularly awful in the final two months (a 9.97 ERA and opponents' OPS of 1.025 in 21 appearances). His meltdown dovetailed with the September struggles of Daniel Bard, a key component in the team's 7-20 collapse in the season's final month.
Albers's heftiness, a factor in his departure from the Orioles, was a nonissue for the Red Sox while he was pitching well. But given how he ran out of gas, and the spotlight directed on the team's conditioning after the season, the Sox undoubtedly will expect Albers to report to camp in better shape come February.
The Red Sox did non-tender one pitcher by Monday's deadline: left-hander Rich Hill, whose plans for a happy homecoming were cut short when the native of Milton, Mass., hurt his pitching elbow and underwent Tommy John reconstruction surgery.
The Sox tendered contracts to all seven of their other aribtration-eligible players, a list headed by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is expected to set a salary record for a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility. The record was set last season by outfielder Hunter Pence, who won a $6.9 million salary in his hearing with the Houston Astros. With his MVP-worthy performance in 2011, Ellsbury, who was paid $2.4 million last season after missing nearly all of 2010 with fractured ribs, is expected to shatter that mark.
The other arbitration-eligible players tendered contracts by the Sox were catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, pitcher Alfredo Aceves, infielder Mike Aviles, pitcher Daniel Bard, infielder Jed Lowrie and reliever Franklin Morales. Saltalamacchia, like Ellsbury, is eligible for the second time. The others are all eligible for the first time.
The Red Sox are certain to scour the list of big-league nontenders for potential additions to the pitching staff. Among notable starters nontendered were Andy Sonnanstine of the Rays and Joe Saunders and Micah Owings of the Diamondbacks.