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Timlin, Gagne offered arbitration

Timlin, Gagne offered arbitration

BOSTON -- Amid reports that the Red Sox have all but finalized a new contract with free-agent right-hander Mike Timlin, the club offered arbitration to the veteran reliever a few hours in advance of Saturday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein confirmed Friday that the club was on the verge of re-signing one of the free-agent players from last year's team, and it appears the player he was referring to was Timlin.

Though Timlin is 41, he continues to pitch at a high level. After an injury-plagued 2006 led to some rare poor numbers for Timlin, he bounced back in 2007, going 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA over 50 appearances. In fact, Timlin registered a couple of key strikeouts in Boston's clinching victory in Game 4 of the World Series.

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The Boston Globe reported that Timlin's new one-year deal would be worth roughly $3 million, assuming it gets finalized.

The only other six-year free agent the Red Sox offered arbitration to was Eric Gagne, who struggled mightily in a setup role after being acquired from the Rangers on July 31. Though Gagne has until Dec. 7 to accept Boston's arbitration offer, it is highly unlikely he will do so. Gagne is all but certain to seek a closing job elsewhere, and the main reason the Red Sox offered him arbitration is so they can get a compensatory pick in next year's Draft.

The Sox declined to offer arbitration to right-hander Matt Clement, backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, outfielder Bobby Kielty, infielder Royce Clayton and first baseman/outfielder Eric Hinske. Boston will not get Draft picks if any of those players sign elsewhere, because they aren't Type A or Type B free agents.

But under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2006, the Red Sox can still negotiate new contracts with any of those players.

Kielty and Mirabelli, in particular, are players the Red Sox are still believed to have interest in retaining.

The Red Sox like Kielty because of his ability to hit left-handed pitching. But the club is waiting to see if Coco Crisp is dealt before making a final call on Kielty.

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Mirabelli is superb at handling Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. When the Red Sox picked up Wakefield's option for 2008, it increased the chances of Mirabelli coming back. However, the Red Sox could still opt to go for a younger backup catcher than the 37-year-old Mirabelli.

The Sox also announced another move on Saturday, signing free agent Jonathan Van Every to a 2008 contract. Van Every was added to the 40-man roster, leaving Boston with two open spots.

The 28-year-old Van Every combined for a .307 batting average with 12 homers and 57 RBI in 95 games for Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo in the Cleveland Indians organization in 2007.

As for Timlin, it is hardly surprising that he's likely to be back in the fold. Aside from being a highly dependable reliever, Timlin is considered a leader in the bullpen. Timlin represents himself and has agreed to a succession of extensions with Epstein during his time in Boston.

This would be Timlin's sixth season with the Red Sox. He has been part of four World Series championship teams, including two in Boston.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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