David Ortiz is the owner of 3 Boston Red Sox World Championship rings; this is a feat that no other Boston player or coach can claim. It is a feat that 99.9% of professional athletes can not dream of accomplishing. It is also the type of triumph that should earn you some elbow room when it comes to contractual obligations — or lack thereof.
Ortiz, 38-years old, is currently on the back end of his 2 year/$30 million dollar contract that is set to expire at the end of the upcoming 2014 season. Like many professional athletes who have an expiring contract, Ortiz is now concerned about his future in Boston. While Ortiz knows that father time is slowly knocking on his door, he does not want to retire after this year and would like to play an extra year or two in Beantown so that he can end his career in the city that gave the former Minnesota Twins’ cast off a chance back in 2003.
While every Major League team deals with disgruntled employees regarding their contract situations, this Ortiz conundrum is different. Although it is true that I am an avid Red Sox fan who is a sucker for the emotional narrative that the “Ortiz retiring as a Red Sox” story presents, I truly believe that the Boston Red Sox organization owes it to Ortiz to give him a small contract extension. Now, it would be one thing if Ortiz was asking for a three year extension through 2017– being contractually tied to a professional athlete when he is in his early 40’s does not seem like a recipe for success (something the New York Yankees have completely disregarded). But Ortiz is not asking for a ludicrous contract that would extend him well beyond the professional baseball player’s shelf life. He wants a one year extension on his current 2 year deal, which would keep him as the Boston Designated Hitter until the end of the 2015 season.
The naysayers will say one of two things to argue against an Ortiz extension:
1. The we-have-been-here-before-with-Ortiz case: That giving Ortiz another short extension will only lead to another contract disagreement at the beginning of the 2015 season.
2. The old-age claim: Extending Ortiz to the age of 39 is potentially disastrous due to an inevitable decline in his production.
To the first argument I would say read between the lines of what Ortiz is saying, he is no dunce. He understands that his time as a professional baseball player is soon coming to an end, but he wants to make sure he is in a Boston uniform when it does. He loves the city of Boston, his teammates, and the fans, and I seriously doubt he wants to play anywhere else. I also seriously doubt another franchise that would give him a long-term contract if the Sox don’t re-up following this season (well, crazier things have happened like, uh, Vernon Wells’s 7 years/126 million dollar contract). And, again, Ortiz understands this. In my opinion, Ortiz wants to play baseball for two more years, believes he can be impactful for a couple more seasons, and then will retire as not only the greatest DH in MLB history, but one of the greatest Boston Red Sox in franchise history.
To the second claim, I would tell you that Ortiz’s recent top tier numbers don’t lie, but also don’t suggest a drop off of epic proportions. As you all know, the DH is unlike any other position in American professional sports. I’m not a scientist or sports medicine doctor, but I am pretty sure that being a DH does not put as much wear and tear on an athletes body that playing 162 games defensively would. It has been over ten years since Ortiz has been a regular defender, and because of that his career has been and will be extended longer than most. A decade long DH is almost impossible to find, so those arguing that Ortiz is going to fall off a cliff statistically have no tangible evidence to back up their claims. The evidence that we do have is the astounding season Ortiz had offensively in 2013 and the average DH numbers for this same season across the American League, which John Tomase recently highlighted in his pro-extension article in the Boston Herald:
• David Ortiz is the greatest designated hitter in history.
• David Ortiz is the most feared hitter in the Red Sox lineup.
• David Ortiz is three months removed from one of the most dominant World Series performances ever, for which he was named Most Valuable Player.
• David Ortiz, even at age 38, has shown few signs of slowing down.
The average DH hit .245 with a .726 OPS last year, compared to .268 and .802 in 2007. Ortiz blew all of those totals away in 2013, at .309 and .959.
That leads us to the second point, which is that Ortiz remains, by far, the most dangerous hitter on the Red Sox. Just ask the Cardinals, who had no answer for him in the World Series, during which he hit .688 and made only six outs — one of which required Carlos Beltran to practically break his ribs on the bullpen fence denying him a grand slam.”
Thus, there is no denying Ortiz’s impact on the Red Sox and the rest of the league. For those still worried about his production moving forward, Fangaph’s Steamer and Oliver projections look favorably upon Ortiz in 2014. Steamer projects a .284/25/85 line while Oliver gives Ortiz .294/29/97. Both of those projections would be well worth another $10-15 million to keep Ortiz happy and not contract-distracted.
Ortiz, along with Pedroia, is the heartbeat of the Red Sox organization, and, as Pedroia said, Ortiz deserves whatever he wants. Pay the man, Boston.