Tick, tock. Tick, tock…
David Ortiz’s time with the Red Sox may be coming to an end. If it happens, it’s all his fault.
There is a $12.5 M team option on Ortiz’s current contract with no buyout. This gives Sox management a choice between keeping Ortiz around for one more year or allowing him to walk away with no monetary obligation. However, Ortiz has made it clear that he wants to negotiate a multi-year deal and will not be happy simply coming back to the Sox for one year at $12.5 M. This puts Sox management in a very bad spot as extending Ortiz into his age 36 season or beyond would be a risky move.
Despite what Ortiz thinks, his last two seasons worth of production hold little weight in any current contract negotiations.
Ortiz is not at an age , nor does he posses a skill set, where steady production can be counted on years down the road. We’ve already seen a falloff in hisAVG over the past two seasons from and there are clear signs that his bat is slowing. For the third straight season Ortiz saw an increase in his strikeout rate, a rise in his swing-and-miss rate and rise in his chase rate (swings at pitches outside the strike-zone).
Each season since 2008, Ortiz has failed to hit over .230 against left-handed pitching. In 185 at-bats against lefties in 2010, Ortiz slugged only .324, hit only two of his 32 home runs, struck out over 30 percent of the time and walked in only 6.5 percent of those at-bats. Clearly, Ortiz is a liability against left-handed pitching. If he wants to point out his consistent power production over the past two seasons, he has to understand that his problems against lefties for the past three seasons count as well.
The market for aging DH’s has not been good over the past couple of offseasons. Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui and Jim Thome all signed last offseason for less than $7 M apiece with none securing more than one guaranteed year. The fact that Ortiz has made his mark as a member of the Red Sox means little at this point. Having missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, it’s time to look forward, not back.
I argued back in September that picking up Ortiz’s option was not really an option given the lack of reliable free agent DH options — assuming that Adam Dunn won’t sign on to DH as he has stated — and Ortiz’s power/OBP production. Evan Brunell suggested that a renegotiated one-year deal with a vesting option based on production could also work. At least in both scenarios the Sox aren’t committed to giving their 2012 DH spot to a 36-year-old Ortiz should his regression pick up speed in 2011.
Ortiz claims that he performs better when “left alone”. He says he doesn’t want to go through what he went through this past season with regard to contract talk. Unfortunately for Ortiz, he hasn’t proven that he’ll perform better on a multi-year deal. Ortiz performed BETTER in 2010 in the last year of the guaranteed part of his contract. The last time he had two years left on a deal he hit .238/.332/.462. How does that prove that he’ll play better with the security of a two-year deal?
If Ortiz wants to be a part of the 2011 Red Sox, all he needs to do is ask them to pick up his option. If his priorities center around a multi-year deal, his days with the Sox could be over. Hitting the open market against Lance Berkman, Aubrey Huff, Derrek Lee, Nick Johnson, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and possibly even Vladimir Guerrero would not likely lead to Ortiz’s desired results.
Ortiz’s time with the Red Sox is ticking away. Whether that be in a year or in three days is really up to the declining DH. The extension Ortiz signed back in 2006 included a club option for the 2011 season. Management seems ready to pick up that option. If Ortiz isn’t ready to play on a one-year deal he had better be ready to hit the free agent market and Sox fans better be ready for life without Papi.