BOSTON -- Trot Nixon agreed to stay with the Boston Red Sox for three more years. Team president Larry Lucchino thinks it will be hard to retain six other key players who can become free agents after the season.
Nixon, who is guaranteed $19.5 million through 2006, said he wasn't tempted to try free agency because he enjoys playing for the
Red Sox. He and his wife don't want to give up "tremendous
relationships" they've developed in the city.
"They didn't try to max out dollars. They didn't try to max out years. They took a realistic approach," general manager Theo
Epstein said. "I can't predict the future but I do know today is a
positive indication that, with the right approach, deals that make
sense for the player and the club can happen."
Pitchers Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Scott Williamson;
shortstop Nomar Garciaparra; catcher Jason Varitek; and designated
hitter-first baseman David Ortiz are eligible for free agency after
the season. Epstein said the team has had introductory talks with
all of them or their agents.
"Can you afford to keep all of them? I don't think so,"
Lucchino said. "It depends on what the price of poker is for each
of these guys. If they're at the high end of a scale based on last
year's market, the year before that, obviously we can't afford
"It's too soon to say. I think it would be very hard to sign the remaining potential free agents."
But, he added, "We haven't given up on any of them."
Epstein doesn't expect all six to re-sign before the season
ends. But he noted that 11 players are signed at least through
2005, so "that is some security. It's not as if we're going in
blind beyond 2004."
Nixon's contract supersedes the one-year, $6.6 million deal he agreed to on Jan. 20, which avoided salary arbitration.
Nixon receives $6.5 million in each of the next three seasons. The contract contains escalators based on award voting, such as if Nixon is among the top 20 in AL MVP voting.
He posted career bests last season with a .306 batting average and 28 homers. Nixon, whose first full season with Boston was 1999, has a .277 batting average, 106 homers and 381 RBIs in 696 career games.
"He hits. He's patient. He gets on base. He hits for power. He's a terrific defensive player, a good baserunner," Epstein
said. "He's a lifelong Red Sox. What's not to like about Trot?"
Nixon, taken with the seventh pick of the 1993 amateur draft, is the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox organization and wants to finish his career with them. He said he wasn't bothered when his name came up in trade speculation several times.
"I wasn't in control of that," he said. "They really never bothered me at all. It's just part of the game."
He and Lucchino don't think offseason negotiations to trade
Garciaparra and Ramirez will affect their performances.
"They're human beings and perhaps were a little disappointed," Lucchino said. "I think there was probably an abrasion or two there, but I think that that chapter has been closed and that they're going to go out and play like professionals."
The Red Sox engaged in extensive talks to trade Ramirez to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez, a deal that was expected to lead
to Garciaparra leaving and outfielder Magglio Ordonez going from
the Chicago White Sox to Boston.
On Friday, Epstein said he doesn't expect a revival of talks before the season.
"We're basically done, barring something extremely
unforeseen," he said.
The Red Sox have added pitchers Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, second baseman Pokey Reese and designated hitter Ellis Burks to a team that set a major league record for slugging percentage. Boston lost to the New York Yankees in the seventh game of the AL
With Boston's pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Feb. 20, Lucchino matter-of-factly discussed the rivalry with the Yankees, an organization he's called the "Evil Empire."
"We still see ourselves as the hungry underdogs," he said, "We reloaded over the winter, but so did the empire."