Red Sox Pick-up Option on David Ortiz
Thursday at midnight was the deadline for teams and players to decide on their options for the 2011 season. After some negotiation with David Ortiz, the Red Sox announced Thursday afternoon that they had opted to pick-up the $12.5 million deal, resulting in a great compromise for both sides. Ortiz entered the talks looking for a longer-term deal with some security in his contract, while the Red Sox didn’t want to lock him up long-term given his age, but wanted to re-sign him for a lower rate. The Sox felt like they overpaid slightly and Ortiz gave up his long-term deal hopes to just get paid a great salary for 1 season and test the free-agent market, so all were happy. With a plethora of top tier free agents scheduled to be available next winter, the Sox may be thinking this is Big Papi’s final year in Boston and the team will move in a different, and likely younger, direction after the 2011 season.
After a slow start to the year, Ortiz put up big numbers for the injured Sox and was one of their biggest offensive threats, like he has been throughout his career. Finishing with a .270 average and 32 home runs, it is hard to argue with that production from your DH. Papi also drove in 102 and finished with a solid .529 slugging percentage in 145 games played. Bill James, the most credible predictor of future stats and a Red Sox consultant, predicts that Ortiz will have another great year at the plate, hitting .261 with 33 home runs and 91 rbis, while maintaining a .509 slugging percentage. As a point of reference and for those who are non-believers in stat predictions, James predicted Ortiz would hit .264 with 29 home runs and 99 rbis and would put up a .519 slugging percentage in 2010. Can’t get much closer than that…
When thinking about Ortiz, a 1-year deal, even though it is for $12.5 million, is really the best option for the Sox. He certainly isn’t getting any younger and at some point, his numbers will begin to sharply decline, as with any power slugger in baseball. He is already performing at a higher level than most expected at his age, so it is only a matter of time before the time-bug catches up with him. The 1-year deal also provides protection for the Sox in case Ortiz does begin to lose bat-speed and decline as a player, because they have no commitment to him next season and beyond. On top of all that, it appears the Red Sox are once again going to go hard after Adrian Gonzalez and could replace Ortiz’s power bat in the lineup with another power-hitting 1st baseman. It makes a lot more sense to dump big money into younger talent and get virtually the same type of production.
No matter what the deal was, I am just happy to have Ortiz back in a Red Sox uniform. As long as he is still producing and lighting up Fenway with his huge smile, the Sox can’t go wrong. Ortiz is a leader in the clubhouse and is a great example for the younger players on the team, so his presence is as valuable as his bat and his clutch performances. Ortiz has established himself as an integral part of the Boston community, building restaurants all over the area, so he can’t leave just yet. We have 1 more year of Papi. It quite possibly could be his last in Boston, so enjoy every minute of it in 2011.