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Theo on Deadline Deals and Nomar's Batting 5th

Theo Epstein (TE) on Sports Radio 850AM WEEI with Dale Arnold and Bob Neumeier.

TE: On Cliff, I talked to his agent today and they're still talking to other clubs and it's still very uncertain, I'd say it's a 50/50 could go either way whether he accepts arbitration and will remain a Red Sox, at least for 2003, or if he goes and signs a multi-year deal with one of several other TE: clubs. another club.

- Do you want Floyd to accept arb. or not?

TE: We are open to it. We could go either way. Two separate and distinct paths. If he accepts arb. he's our first baseman. I'm sure we'll get him worked out in a one year deal and we're pretty much done.

That gives us a pretty potent lineup: We'd go

Varitek... and that's not bad at all.

If he (CF) goes in another direction, we have a little hole at 1B but more payroll flexibility. We can't control it at this point.

- Did the uncertainty about Cliff Floyd play into the Jeff Kent yes or no signing with the Red Sox?

TE: I don't know. We stepped up and made an offer to Kent. So we were taking a bit of an educated guess as to what Floyd would have done if we were to sign Kent. It would have been very difficult for us to take both Kent and Floyd. As it turned out, was not something we had to deal with. We thought if we signed Kent, it would have been pretty certain that Cliff would have gone elsewhere. I'm not sure how much it played into Jeff's decision.

- Could you have taken on both payrolls?

There would have been ways out of that if Cliff had accepted. Certain scenarios where we could have made some moves to get payroll work.

- What are these deadlines?

TE: Non-tenders, certain value in arb., December 20th DL to tender contract, accept in to arb. process. Guaranteed min. salary of value. Settle on one year or multi-year. Lou Merloni, Benny, Mirabelli, Nixon. Arbitration DL is FA's at midnight... (more on details of different deadlines).

- I hear your email going off

It's been a busy day. The next 48 hours will provide a lot of opportunity for us.

- John Henry said to us that you had to keep a portion of our money available because there are going to be a number of guys looking for work when pitchers and catchers report. Obviously you agree with that?

TE: Yea. Under an ideal scenario. But that lineup I read earlier, under the scenario that Floyd accepts, certainly one of the better lineups in baseball. More talent, less flexibility under that scenario.

- Where do you stand with Contreras?

TE: He's of definite interest to us. We're done all the research. We've done as much work on this as any other club, probably more. Can't negotiate until Monday. It's something we would like to make happen at the right price.

- We've had many people ask this question and nobody has been able to give a direct answer, what's your payroll number for next year?

TE: It's impossible to give direct answer for that, even if I could, we have policy of not discussing our payroll. But there are three different payrolls at least. There's the accounting projection, GAP, Cash which is straight money out the door, and MLB version, collective bargaining and tax procedures. Three different numbers, but we're not willing to discuss them. Any time you ask a team about their payroll, they'll give you whatever answer they want depending if they want it to seem high or low.

- Do you plan on revisiting chats with the Expos following tomorrow?

TE: Yeah. I think it's good to stay in touch with them. If the asking price were to suddenly drop and we had an opportunity to move forward, we would. It's a strange off-season. There's a lot of the top of the rotation starters available either through trade, free agency, or international free agency, so it would be nice for us to land one of them.

- Tom Verducci said on the morning show that he thought either Clemens, or Contreras, or Colon. One would be in New York. One would be in Boston. And one would be in Texas. Could you live with that?

TE: Sure (-at the right price?). Sure.

- As you look at other teams doing stuff, You must have to keep your eye on other teams (read: Yankees Matsui). If Maddox accepts arb. you gotta think they have to wheel Ortiz or Millwood out of there, you must have to look at everything and see how they could apply to your team?

TE: It's a big puzzle. We keep charts of every club, not only talent at the big league level, and minor leagues, but their payroll. And we update those every day. So we're really aware of other clubs payroll. Try to think two or three steps ahead for them and a lot of those scenarios you mentioned are true and are happening. They present opportunities as well. Other clubs payroll is an important variable for us to be aware of.

- Did the name Nomar Garciaparra ever come up in your weekend at Nashville?

TE: Uh, one club asked about him in trade talks. Told them what we tell everybody else, we'll listen on any of our players because we think that by refusing to listen we might miss an opportunity. But it's virtually impossible to envision a scenario where trading Nomar makes sense for us right now. And they kind of chuckled and said 'that's what we thought' and we moved on to more realistic matters.

- Was it frustrating, almost like a lost weekend in Nashville, lethargic with all the questions coming up here?

TE: Not really. we did a lot of information gathering and we got a lot done too if you count the Walker deal on the eve of the meetings. Made two trades for really minor league price. Productive left handed bats to stick in our lineup. Pretty active in the Rule V draft. We had a lot of things that almost happened, that came really close. Some trades and one big free agent signing that almost happened. It was active. Lethargic is probably the last word I'd use to describe it. We were almost hyper-active in terms of our energy level and getting things done. We talked to all 29 clubs. In sum, there was less done at those meetings than most winter meetings but that probably just means it will be a very active late Dec., early Jan. than ever before.

- This agent told me that he envisions between 100-150 players looking for ML minimum salary at the beginning of spring training. That many people looking for jobs?

TE: That's hard to envision but it's probably something I shouldn't really comment on. In an ideal world all players find the right club at the right fit at a salary that makes sense for them and the club. It's just probably less than an ideal world this year based on the marketplace and there will be players out there, probably more players than jobs out there right now. We'll see what happens.

- When will you inform your players of tender or non-tender (of their contracts) or have you already done that?

TE: No, we'll communicate to the player either directly or usually through agent depending on the player, by sometime late tomorrow.

- And you won't do it ahead of time. You haven't made all of your decisions at this point?

TE: We probably wouldn't do it ahead of time, that far in advance, maybe a couple hours ahead of time. But you never know when a team might call and want to trade for a player, when we might have something that make sense to do other than non-tender the player. When you do non-tender the player, you get nothing in return but you still retain rights to talk to the player.

- Based on how the off-season has gone so far, what's the next thing on your shopping list?

TE: The Big Starting Pitcher would be nice, it's pretty important, it's what we're focused on and we'll know tonight at midnight if 1B is a hole that we need to fill or whether we have another left handed bat in that hole already. And we need to tweak the bullpen as well.

- You grabbed Timlin yesterday, but you're going to add on to him as well?

TE: We'll see. We do have some things working in the pen. Again the Floyd decision will dictate if we have resources to go or whether we have to be a little bit more creative. But even if we're in a situation where we have less payroll flexibility, there's a couple of interesting names that we're pretty close to.

- I did notice when you mention Floyd that you said 'we've got our first baseman,' how does that impact Giambi, or Daubach, or anybody else theoretically (no pun noticed) penciled in at that spot and have you talked to Floyd about playing first?

TE: Yeah Grady talked to Floyd about playing first at end of year. He said he's fine with it as long as he would have spring training to prepare. We talked to Jeremy and said that he'd be a big part of our solution at first base. DH would be fallback scenario. He's going to come to spring training early with his first baseman's globe. He's working really hard out in Arizona right now. If he can get defense to the point where it's more than adequate, he can play first base too. Good thing about DH is you can rest guys too. Probably be a bit of a rotation. Important thing is to get him (Jeremy) as close to 500 at bats as we can. If Cliff is here, probably more of those AB for Giambi at DH. If Cliff is not here, conceivably more of them could come at 1B depending on what else we do but getting him the at bats, and getting him on base is the key.

- So for fans looking for Red Sox news. Floyd tomorrow. Contreras news beginning of next week, is that fair?

TE: Hard to know Contreras timetable. Over next couple of weeks, should be a lot of news around baseball involving some pretty talented starting pitching, Contreras is one of them.

- So I assume when you revisit with Montreal that Bartolo Colon's name will be up front in those discussions?

TE: I don't want to talk about specific trade talks, but it's pretty clear that he's one guy they're certainly pushing aggressively.

- I know you're talking to Omar Minaya, but don't you sort of feel like you're negotiating with major league baseball?

TE: Not at all, Omar has a lot of interest in this thing. He doesn't just want to pare payroll, he wants to pare payroll and do the moves best for his club, both the short term and the long term. MLB doesn't really come into play. Sometimes take a step back and realize we own 1/29 of club, but doesn't really come into play in our active mind.

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