Tuesday January 18, 2011 | 03:37 PM

Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has again avoided going to arbitration by signing Boston's two arbitration-eligible players before the parties even exchanged salary figures.

According to csnne.com and weei.com, the Red Sox signed closer Jonathan Papelbon to a $12-million deal, and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to $2.4-million, with incentives for $100,000 more, based on plate appearances.

Both players are coming off of down years. Ellsbury missed almost the whole season with rib injuries, while Papelbon had a 3.90 ERA and eight blown saves.

It will be interesting to see how Papelbon performs since he will be a free agent next year. If he has a monster season, he will ask for a monster contract and may move on. If he slips again, the Red Sox may not want him back ... i.e., this could be Papelbon's last season at Fenway.


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Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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