The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster begins with a look at designated hitter David Ortiz.
We begin our 25-day preview of the Boston Red Sox roster with the veteran designated hitter whose career is coming to an end. 2016 will be David Ortiz‘s 14th season in a Red Sox uniform, but it will also be his last, as he intends to retire at the conclusion of this season.
Ortiz’s legendary career may be winding down, but you’d never know it based on his performance last season. He hit .273/.360/.553 with a team-leading 37 home runs and 108 RBI, while continuing to serve as the linchpin of this lineup. His .913 OPS ranked 7th in the American League, showing that even at his age he has barely slipped from his career OPS of .925. The 141 OPS+ (adjusted for league and park effects) that he produced last season was actually higher than his career average of 139.
By surpassing the minimum requirement of 425 plate appearances last season, Ortiz secured his team option for 2016, while also racking up enough plate appearances to trigger incentive bonuses that increased his salary to $16 million. Considering Ortiz produced a 3.3 WAR last season and has averaged 3.4 WAR since 2010, despite not fielding a defensive position, his contract remains a bargain.
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Ortiz has a similar incentive laden team option built into his contract for 2017, but he has chosen to forgo that option by announcing that this upcoming season will be his last.
So what can we expect from Ortiz in 2016? At 40 years old, we have to expect him to slow down at some point. Perhaps announcing his impending retirement so far in advance of the season is a sign that he is beginning to feel that the end is near. While spending the majority of his career as a DH has helped protect his body from the wear and tear of the 2,257 games he has already logged at the big league level, he still has his limits. Father Time remains undefeated.
That doesn’t mean we should expect Ortiz to suddenly fall off a cliff in his final season. It’s been said that it’s better to walk away from the game a year too early rather than a year too late, so Ortiz may simply be ensuring that he is able to go out on his own terms rather than being forced out of the game due to injuries or wait around until he’s too washed up for anyone to want him.
If Ortiz is prepared to play one more season then we can expect he believes he has enough left in the tank to remain a productive hitter. He should once again be among the top power threats in this lineup, with his 10th career 30+ home run, 100+ RBI season within reason.
The Red Sox have finished in last place in each of the last two seasons, which is not the way a player with Ortiz’s resume wants to go out. With a revamped pitching staff and deeper lineup, Boston is poised to bounce back to contender status in 2016. You can bet that this team will be well motivated to make Ortiz’s last season a success, hopefully resulting in a fourth World Series ring to top off a Hall of Fame caliber career.