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Deadline near for Sox to decide on Sweeney

BOSTON -- Another deadline day on the offseason calendar will arrive on Friday, as Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington must tender contracts to all unsigned players by the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.

Any player non-tendered would become a free agent.

If the unsigned players who have at least three years of service time but fewer than six years are tendered contracts, they essentially become eligible for arbitration, though there is typically a settlement before the two sides must advance to an arbitration hearing.

Right fielder Ryan Sweeney is one Boston player who could be non-tendered. Sweeney spent his first season with the Red Sox fighting injuries, one of which came when he punched a clubhouse door and broke his left hand.

The problem is that Sweeney didn't hit for much power. The Red Sox are on the verge of signing left fielder Jonny Gomes to a two-year, $10 million deal and still have interest in re-signing Cody Ross. Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava are cheaper organizational alternatives who can play the corner-outfield spots.

Cherington also has a big decision to make on right-hander Alfredo Aceves. The righty was one of Boston's most valuable pitchers in 2011, but he was inconsistent on the mound and with his behavior in '12.

It is no secret that Aceves would prefer to start. Perhaps what makes him most valuable is his versatility.

But Aceves seemed disinterested in the final weeks of last season, after he was demoted from the closer's role. Storming into the manager's office for a tirade after not being used in a save situation -- as was the case with Aceves in August -- is simply unacceptable.

Aceves was non-tendered by the Yankees after the 2010 season for both health and behavior reasons.

The Red Sox also have interesting decisions to make on veteran relievers Scott Atchison and Rich Hill. Atchison, a righty, sustained a right ulnar collateral ligament injury during the summer, but he ultimately didn't need surgery and was effective in the final few weeks of the season.

Hill, a lefty and a local product -- he's from Milton, Mass. -- continues to struggle to stay healthy. But he also seems to pitch well whenever he is on the roster, and he doesn't cost a lot.

The most prominent Boston players who must be tendered a contract by Friday night are center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, closer Andrew Bailey and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Don't expect any of those players to be non-tendered. The value of keeping them on the books far outweighs a non-tender, even if the Red Sox end up dangling some of those players in trade proposals.

Craig Breslow, who emerged into an invaluable lefty reliever after being traded to Boston in July 31, is also likely to be retained. Andrew Miller, another southpaw, was at times dominant after being converted to a full-time reliever, so there's motivation to bring him back.

Boston Red Sox, Alfredo Aceves, Scott Atchison, Ryan Sweeney