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07/17/09 8:12 PM ET

Red Sox, Bay table contract talks

Sides assuage potential distraction by halting negotiations

TORONTO -- The Red Sox have come to a mutual decision with left fielder Jason Bay that it is probably best to table any further contract negotiations until after the season. That said, both sides remain hopeful that a deal will later be struck that can keep the consistent slugger in a Boston uniform for the next several years.

Bay said he'd be open to talking again with the Red Sox before he is eligible to file for free agency. Free agents aren't eligible to sign with another team until 15 days after the World Series, which means there could still be time for Bay to strike a deal with Boston.

"I'm in no position to say I want to file for free agency and see what's out there," said Bay. "I'd still love to get something done here. I've made that kind of known. I like it here. That being said, we basically at this point don't want it to be an ongoing distraction for both of us -- coming to the field and answering contract questions. There's a big window at the end of the year after the season to sit down and try to hammer something out again. The way things have gone so far, I'm very encouraged with that."

The Sox have come to appreciate Bay's durability, productivity and professionalism since acquiring him from the Pirates in a blockbuster trade for Manny Ramirez on July 31, 2008.

General manager Theo Epstein said that the sides started revisiting a new pact for Bay in mid-June.

"Some offers were exchanged, concluding in another offer from the club about a week ago, and it's now clear that this round of talks won't result in a deal either," Epstein said. "We're going to table discussions again, which is, once again, a mutual decision and pick them up, most likely, after the season."

Bay is hitting .260 with 20 homers and 72 RBIs entering Friday's action. He started for the American League in the All-Star Game.

"I think we were really hopeful that with the aggressive offer that we made, we could have reached a deal now," said Epstein. "But we have complete respect for Jason as a player and as a person and for what free agency means to players. He's worked his whole career, and had a really consistent career, to get to a point where he can set his family up for life. We're not going to hold anything against him because he makes a decision that he may want to wait and be able to consider every possible opportunity."

Perhaps increasing the chances of a future deal is how amicable the negotiations have been to this point.

"I think he sat down with us in good faith and we approached him in good faith and it just didn't work out at this point," said Epstein. "We'll see what the future brings. We still want to retain him. I think he still wants to be here. It's just not going to happen now."

Bay is more confident after this impasse then the one that took place midway through Spring Training.

"They've made great strides and I appreciate it but as of right now, the best interests of both parties is we didn't get something reached by [the end of the All-Star break]," said Bay. "But I'm very encouraged."

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