Sox source: Bay still prime target

Jason Bay's agent was making no predictions on when the free-agent left fielder will sign after the Red Sox offered him salary arbitration Tuesday, assuring them of receiving two draft picks if he signs elsewhere.

"I don't have a time frame for a deal at this point,'' agent Joe Urbon wrote in an e-mail. "Despite the interest, it would be unwise for me to speculate.''

Bay and Matt Holliday, both left fielders, are the premium free-agent bats available this winter, so there is obvious overlap in the teams that have interest in them, although Angels owner Arte Moreno made a surprise announcement at the start of the negotiating period that while the Angels were interested in Bay, they would not pursue Holliday.

Would Bay wait for Holliday, who was offered arbitration by the St. Louis Cardinals, to sign as a way to gauge his own value? Urbon suggested it would be a mistake to make that assumption.

"Our decision will be based on the market movement for Jason,'' he said. "When the 'right' deal presents itself, we plan on responding accordingly independent of other signings or imminent signings.''

Holliday, a Type A free agent, would cost the Sox a first-round draft pick if they signed him instead of Bay, but a club source indicated that Bay remains the prime target, predicting that the market for Holliday may reach a level, in terms of dollars and years, to which the Red Sox do not want to go.

As expected, the Red Sox also offered arbitration to reliever Billy Wagner, another free agent who will bring back two draft picks once his signing with the Braves becomes official. The club also announced it did not offer salary arbitration to outfielder Rocco Baldelli, right-handed pitcher Paul Byrd or infielder Chris Woodward.

Bay has until Dec. 7 to decide whether to accept arbitration. He is not expected to do so.

The Toronto Blue Jays, as expected, offered salary arbitration to free-agent shortstop Marco Scutaro. Scutaro also is a Type A free agent and thus would cost the Red Sox a first-round draft choice should they elect to sign him.

With Alex Gonzalez signing last week with Toronto, Scutaro almost certainly remains at the top of Boston's list, even though Dustin Pedroia told ESPN's Peter Gammons that he would be willing to move to short. Pedroia is so gung-ho, he'd probably volunteer to catch if the Red Sox asked him to, but the Sox have had only the most casual conversations about moving him, according to a club source.

Peter Greenberg, Scutaro's agent, left open the possibility that his client could strike a deal quickly.

"There is always the possibility that he signs before the winter meetings. We'll just have to see,'' Greenberg wrote in an e-mail.

Ten Type A free agents in all were offered arbitration, meaning teams that sign them would surrender a draft choice. Among them were the two Atlanta relievers, lefty Mike Gonzalez and righty Rafael Soriano, that the Sox have shown interest in, as well as Angels right-hander John Lackey, although a Red Sox source said Lackey is not a target. The Dodgers did not offer arbitration to Type A left-hander Randy Wolf, which should increase the number of his potential suitors.

Among the Type A free agents not offered arbitration that could draw interest from the Red Sox was Miguel Tejada, who represents a potential option at third should the Sox elect to trade incumbent Mike Lowell. Tejada has been a shortstop his entire career, but his declining defensive skills make a position change inevitable. Another third baseman who was offered arbitration was Seattle's Adrian Beltre, the best defensive option among free agents, but Beltre is a Type B free agent and would not cost the Sox a draft pick.

The Sox, while eyeing a potential trade for Toronto ace Roy Halladay, are considering a number of low-risk, potential high-reward pitchers with injury histories. That list includes Rich Harden, who was not offered arbitration by the Cubs, and left-hander Erik Bedard, who was not offered arbitration by the Mariners.

Others not offered arbitration include former Milwaukee right-hander Ben Sheets, who is coming off major elbow surgery, and Kelvim Escobar, who won 18 games in 2007 but has barely pitched the last two seasons because of shoulder surgery and subsequent complications.

"The Red Sox expressed early interest [in Escobar] and yes, it would be a place that would interest Kelvim,'' wrote Greenberg, his agent. "We have been in the process of obtaining his medicals and Kelvim is planning on pitching winter ball in Venezuela, so we are waiting on that for now.

"There have been many teams who have expressed interest in Kelvim, but Boston would be at or near the top of that list for Kelvim.''

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.