Ortiz the big question as arbitration deadline nears

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Ortiz the big question as arbitration deadline nears

Midnight Wednesday is the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents. For the Red Sox, who have eight players eligible for free agency, that should be a pretty routine call.

Of the eight free agents -- David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Dan Wheeler, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller and Tim Wakefield -- four are ranked free agents under the current system.

Papelbon and Ortiz are Type A free agents; Varitek and Wheeler are Type B free agents.

Papelbon, of course, has already signed a four-year, 50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, so, after-the-fact, the Sox will offer Papelbon arbitration and get a first-round pick and sandwich pick as compensation.

Ortiz represents a more interesting call. If the Sox offer Ortiz arbitration and he accepts -- players must do so by Dec. 7 -- then the Sox run the risk of going to arbitration and having Ortiz awarded a salary somewhere between 13.5-15 million next season.

Still, though that would represent a modest raise from Ortiz's 12.5 million salary for 2011 and force the Sox to a pay huge number for a DH, it would limit the team's commitment to the 36-year-old to one season.

And, as former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein was fond of saying: "There's no such thing as a bad, one-year contract."

The cases of Wheeler and Varitek are more problematic.

The Red Sox have already opted not to pick up a 3 million team option on Wheeler. Wheeler made 3 million in 2011, meaning offering him arbitration would virtually guarantee that he would get a raise for 2012.

If the Sox weren't willing to lock him in at 3 million -- though they indicated they were open to re-signing him at a lesser figure -- why would they tie themselves to the arbitration process where Wheeler would almost certainly get more?

With Varitek, who earned 2 million as the backup catcher last year, would seem to represent too great a risk for the Sox to offer aribtration. Even a modest raise to, say, 2.5 million, would be way more than the Sox would want to pay a reserve catcher, especially with the much younger (and infinitely less expensive) Ryan Lavarnway in line for the same role.

In the unlikely event both Wheeler and Varitek were offered salary arbitration by the Sox and then signed elsewhere, the Sox would receive sandwich picks for both.

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

BOSTON – You knew Boston’s dominance over the Sacramento Kings at the TD Garden was going to come to an end someday. 

Well that day won’t come around for at least another season as the Celtics’ forgotten man just a couple nights ago, Al Horford, came up with big plays at both ends of the floor that helped propel Boston to a 97-92 win. 

With Boston ahead 95-92 with less than 10 seconds to play, the Kings had one chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. 

They got the ball to their best player DeMarcus Cousins who tried to draw a foul against his defender, Al Horford. 

Cousins’ attempt to sell there being contact behind the 3-point line was not being bought by the officials. 

After his missed shot, Sacramento’s Garrett Temple fouled Horford with 4.8 seconds to play. 

Horford, who finished with a season-high 26 points, went to the line and made both of the free throws to seal the victory. 

The Celtics (11-8) have now won five of their last seven games overall as they hit the road where they’ve won four in a row away from the TD Garden.

Meanwhile the Kings (7-12) have now lost nine straight at the TD Garden.

Sacramento had swung the game’s momentum in their favor at the end of the third and early in the fourth, but the Celtics refused to go down without a fight. 

A shot by Horford tied the game at 76. And on the ensuing Kings possession, Horford came up with a blocked shot that ultimately led to lay-up for Jonas Jerebko to put Boston up 78-76.

Cousins suffered a cut above his right eye in the fourth quarter and finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists. 

After a Sacramento time-out following Jerebko’s basket, the Celtics came up with another turnover – their 15thforced turnover of the night – that led to a lay-up by Kelly Olynyk.

On the ensuing Olynyk basket, Cousins took a blow to the head on the play that forced him to leave with 7:08to play. 

With no Cousins on the floor, the Celtics tightened up their perimeter defense and made a point of attacking the Sacramento interior immediately.

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 20 points, converted a three-point play at the 6:33 mark - 35 seconds after Cousins left the game.

The close finish was in stark contrast to how the game begin. 

In Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, Horford only took five shots from the field. 

After the game, head coach Brad Stevens said that should have never happened. 

Jae Crowder called it “unacceptable.”

Well it didn’t take Horford long to get five shot attempts – about five minutes actually. 

And the four-time all-star hit most of them as he helped the Celtics lead by as many as 13 points in the first quarter before the Kings closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 29. 

Horford led four double figure scorers for Boston which included Thomas, Jae Crowder (16 points) and Avery Bradley (15 points). 

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics take a slim 47-46 lead into the half over Sacramento, a team they have dominated at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics are looking to extend their winning streak at home over the Kings to nine in a row with a victory tonight. 

But the Kings are not going to go down easily, as they rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter. 

After Boston went ahead 29-19, the Kings scored the final 10 points of the quarter to tie it at 29. 

Sacramento took a couple of brief leads in the second, only for the Celtics to get a clutch shot or a timely stop defensively. 

The final points of the half came on a put-back basket by Al Horford which gave Boston a one-point lead that would serve as the margin going into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Friday’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

After taking just five shots in Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, Horford had as many in the first six minutes. He would finish the half with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included a pair of three-pointers.

DeMarcus Cousins

He had a horrible first half shooting the ball, but there was no denying Cousins’ presence and impact on the game. Despite missing six of his nine shot attempts he still led them with nine points and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

He looked a lot more like the Avery Bradley we’ve seen most of this season, and not the one who was a non-factor for most of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit. At the half he had nine points and four rebounds.

Matt Barnes

The oldest player on the floor certainly didn’t look past his prime. The 36-year-old small forward came off the Kings bench to score six points along with grabbing eight rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

A 19.6 points per game scorer this season, Gay couldn’t get into any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. At the half, he had four points on 2-for-8 shooting which included him missing all four of his three-pointers.