Indeed, if the Sox couldn’t get Bay signed in March, and again at the All-Star break, why should the next month or so be any different? Industry sources suggest Bay and the Sox are quite far apart – both in terms of length and money.

“It’s been a really unusual negotiation in the first place,” Epstein said, “(in that) we want to keep him and he wants to be here and yet we’ve been unable to reach a deal. I don’t think either side’s been unreasonable. I don’t think either side’s been too conservative or not aggressive enough or not proactive enough. It just hasn’t happened.”

Given the uncertainty, however, the Red Sox need to have other options should Bay get more money or a longer deal – or both – elsewhere.

Should Bay leave, the Sox always could swing a trade to find his replacement. But a more likely scenario would have them finding an outfielder on the free agent market.

Matt Holliday, who was traded from Colorado to Oakland last offseason, then from Oakland to St. Louis during the season, is the player who profiles most closely to Bay.

Holliday has the advantage of being a bit younger (he’ll be 30 by Opening Day; Bay will be 31) and has the reputation of being a better defender – his costly flub in Game 2 of the NLDS notwithstanding. Bay has more power, and both are patient hitters.

The X-factor in all of this could well be agent Scott Boras, who represents Holliday. After the Sox failed to sign free agent Mark Teixeira last December, Red Sox ownership vowed to not do business with Boras’ clients again, though that might have been the frustration talking.

Still, if Bay signs elsewhere before Holliday, the talks could drag on well into the offseason, something the Sox would like to avoid.

Moreover, it seems likely Holliday will be seeking a contract equal to or greater than Bay’s. If the Sox can’t or won’t meet Bay’s asking price, why would they do so for a player with whom they’re not familiar?

There are other options, including two from the team that just ended the Red Sox’ season – the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Chone Figgins played the outfield earlier in his career before moving to third base full-time this season.

Unlike Holliday and Bay, who are proven run-producers, Figgins could provide speed and athleticism to a lineup that has gotten older and slower in parts. Figgins also has learned patience at the plate – as his league-leading 101 walks attest – and, along with Jacoby Ellsbury [stats], would give the Sox an unmatched table-setting duo at the top of the lineup.

But Figgins will be in high demand this winter.
Figgins’ teammate on the Angels, outfielder Bobby Abreu, also is intriguing. When the free agent market bottomed out last winter, Abreu had no choice but to accept a one-year, $5 million base from the Angels. At 35, Abreu isn’t the outfielder he once was, but he surely could handle left field duties at Fenway, where there isn’t much ground to cover.

Abreu is the kind of selective hitter the Red Sox [team stats] covet – he walked four times in Game 1 of the recent ALDS and compiled a .390 OBP this past season. He’s also a reliable run-producer – with 100 or more RBI in eight straight seasons and nine of the past 10.

After settling for a one-year deal last year, Abreu surely will be looking for some security. A two-year deal with an option might get him signed.

Finally, there’s former Red Sox Johnny Damon, who has signaled a preference to remain with the Yankees. The Red Sox had question marks about his durability when he left after 2005 and were unwilling to give him a four-year deal for the money he was seeking.

Damon averaged 144 games the past four years and still possesses on-base ability and some surprising pop (he tied a career high with 24 homers this year, a figure aided by the cozy right field dimensions of new Yankee Stadium).

But Damon’s departure left a bad taste with some in the Red Sox organization, and like Holliday, he’s represented by Boras, making a reunion with the Sox a decided longshot.

Red Sox Wednesday:

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