David Ortiz, Red Sox Renew Vows

For a very long time, the Boston Red Sox were good. Great, even. Then, beginning around September 2011 or so, the Red Sox turned into a disaster. The Sox followed a poor end to the 2011 season with a poor all of the 2012 season, and it became somewhat conceivable that David Ortiz would look for a change. Ortiz was set to be a free agent after the year, and as hard as it is to imagine the Red Sox without him, maybe Ortiz would’ve been sick of the atmosphere. Just recently, Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Texas Rangers would have interest in Ortiz as a potential free-agent DH. It wasn’t impossible that Ortiz would go somewhere else, is the point.

But that’s not happening, as it turns out. Friday was the end of the exclusive negotiating window for teams and their free agents. Recently there were reports that Ortiz and the Red Sox were close to an agreement, then there were reports that Ortiz and the Red Sox weren’t really close to an agreement. But Friday, word’s out that an agreement is in place. David Ortiz is not hitting the open market — David Ortiz is staying in Boston.

As Ortiz and the Red Sox have wanted. Ortiz didn’t really want to go anywhere, and he just wanted to get a two-year contract. The Red Sox didn’t want to let such a phenomenal hitter and icon walk away, and they have plenty of resources. The Red Sox extended a $13.3 million qualifying offer to Ortiz, but the official agreement is for two years and $26 million, with an additional $4 million in incentives. Ortiz gets his multi-year deal; the Red Sox keep their offensive MVP.

Now, Ortiz was paid $14.575 million in 2012, and he subsequently posted a four-digit OPS. Maybe it seems strange for him to accept what amounts to a pay cut, but then, of course, Ortiz missed a huge chunk of last season due to an Achilles injury. He ought to be just fine by spring training, but it’s the age and injury risk that are keeping Ortiz’s deal down. On talent, he’s incredible.

Speaking of incredible, the Contract Crowdsourcing results for David Ortiz? Two years, $26 million. Just earlier Friday, Dave Cameron referred to that potential Ortiz deal as a good value, and I’ll just copy and paste what he already wrote about it:

Why no one wanted to give Ortiz a two year deal last winter is beyond me, but it seems like everyone has realized the error of their ways, and recognize that he’s still got a lot to offer an AL team who needs an offensive upgrade in a hurry. The age and injury concerns limit the length — and risk — of the deal, and at $13 million per year, Ortiz is a bargain. The lack of long term value is the only reason he’s this low.

Ortiz turns 37 in a couple weeks, yes, and he just missed a lot of games. Between 2009-2011, he missed hardly any games, and the past two years he’s been one of the very best hitters in all of baseball. There are 304 players who batted at least 500 times between 2011-2012. By wRC+, Ortiz ranks sixth, between Matt Kemp and Lance Berkman. He’s been a slightly better hitter than Prince Fielder, and he’s been a comparable hitter to Joey Votto. He’s been a power hitter with Angel Pagan‘s strikeout rate.

The strikeout rate is what’s key, here. With a player of Ortiz’s age, you have to be concerned about a decline. In 2009, Ortiz struck out in more than a fifth of his plate appearances, and in 2010, he struck out in nearly a quarter of them. But in 2011, his strikeout rate dropped from 24 percent to 14 percent, and he didn’t give any of that back in 2012. His walks haven’t suffered. His BABIP hasn’t been inflated. His home-run rate hasn’t been uncharacteristically high. Ortiz hasn’t been producing so much because of luck; he’s a good hitter who gave himself more opportunities by trimming his strikeouts. It’s not like we should expect Ortiz to get better, but the signs of performance decline aren’t in there, yet. If anything, signs are pointing in the other direction.

The long and short of it: David Ortiz is aging, and he’s just a straight-up hitter, but he’s a hell of a hitter, and he should be well worth $26-30 million over the next two seasons. FanGraphs’ own calculations put Ortiz as having been worth $32 million the last two years, and in one of those years he played just 90 games. There are a lot of changes the Red Sox would probably like to make, and there are a lot of changes the Red Sox’s fans would probably like the Red Sox to make, but David Ortiz was never something that went wrong. At this price, there was no reason to change David Ortiz.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

55 Responses to “David Ortiz, Red Sox Renew Vows”

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  1. bSpittle says:

    disagree on Ortiz, for reasons that would piss off an Ortiz fan.

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  2. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Nice to see he’ll likely finish his career in a Sox uniform. That stuff doesn’t happen enough nowadays.

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    • filihok says:

      That a player plays with multiple teams and retires with one of them?

      +39 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • J!m Future says:

        Oh, don’t be disingenuous. Does anyone even remember what Papi looks like in a Twins hat?

        What Rufus is obviously getting at is that it’s getting rare to see veterans retire with a team they’ve been a part of for several (in Ortiz’s case, about to be ten) years – the changing nature of the game means that a lot of decline-phase players have to take one or more short-term contracts with whoever has a role for them.

        It’s not a bad thing, but there’s still something nice about being able to keep a guy in the fold through the end sometimes.

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      • Productive Out says:

        I remember Ortize in a Twins hat, in agonizing detail for many years in a row – waiting for him to round into form. There is no Twins fan over 28 that doesn’t remember Ortiz – viscerally.

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      • B N says:

        @Productive: I could see that. David Ortiz was to the Twins what Wily Mo Pena was to the Red Sox. The difference being that Ortiz actually figured it out, while Pena… not so much.

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  3. Penelope says:

    Can’t help but compare the Red Sox 2012 season to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Last season began with a plan to shift perspective for the better. As it played out icons died, players left, and life sucked. It arguably concluded in a worse place than it had started. But might there be some hope left in the rubble? I think so. Ortiz might just provide the memory of the past that will drive the future. But $36 mil over 2 is utter nonsense.

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  4. B N says:

    Good to still have him around, though it’s crazy to think that he’s the last guy from the 2004 championship team still around on the squad. In a few years, there might not even be too many from the 2007 team around. Who’s still there? Ortiz, Pedroia, Lester, Buchholz, and Ellsbury? All told, the Red Sox kept a pretty consistent core for many years but it seems like there’s a lot more question marks than answers going forward.

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    • Jonathan says:

      The 2007 Red Sox only had Ortiz, Manny, Schilling, Wakefield, Mirabelli and Varitek left over from 2004.

      Youkilis was technically there, but I’m loathe to count him in 2004 considering he wasn’t a real big contributor. Hell, as it stands, I’m hesitant to include Mirabelli.

      Fact of the matter is that we’re now five full seasons removed from 2007, you’re going to get a lot of turnover in that timeframe. Hell, even the Yankees, who are known for retention, only have six people left on the team from their 2007 roster (Jeter, Rivera, Hughes, Cano, A-Rod and Pettitte) and one of them has retired once already with another likely gone after 2013.

      Pedroia and Buchholz will still be around for a few years yet, but the team seems to be developing a probable new core around guys like Bogaerts, Cecchini, Bradley, Barnes and Owens (Whoever works out from that group obviously).

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  5. HMK says:

    not to be a jerk or anything, but someone above me said “anyone remember what papi looked like in a twins uniform?” and yeah, i actually do remember… he was about half the size he was since hes been on the sox. and ortiz is one of the least mentioned steroid users out there. i personally dont care all that much, considering how little i care about Arod or pettitte or others like that. but i live in boston, and no one here knows about ortiz and roids, or at least everyone ignores it. frustrating. not to take away from papi, though, cause hes a legit hitter. just an interesting side note.

    -13 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Penelope says:

      This isn’t even close to the magnitude of difference the young and the old player named Thome. And I haven’t heard anyone even implicate Thome.


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      • phoenix2042 says:

        are you, penelope, saying that you think ortiz did not do steroids? well then i guess that you prove HMK’s point. ortiz admitted that he did steroids at a press conference, and then everyone just said “oh, we couldn’t stay mad at you! don’t even worry about it, big guy!” and now no one mentions it or, seemingly, even remembers it in your case.

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      • Jonathan says:


        No, he didn’t. There’ve been implications and reports, but Ortiz never once admitted to any wrong doing. He basically OJ’d it, saying he’d find out how he tested negatively and would give more details as it developed.

        Whether one believes he did or not, the only thing out there implicating him was a “banned substance” result. Banned substance could be anything from a PED to a supplement to marijuana.

        The timeframe is, admittedly, suspicious. Ortiz was a no-name until 2003, when he tested positive, but he never ever admitted to taking a PED.

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      • Steve says:

        This is true, he never came out and admitted it, but he did say that he drank a lot of milkshakes in the DR, and who knows what was in those??

        But yeah, the press has absolutely given him a free pass on his “I will investigate and report back with an explanation” that was about 4 years ago at this point.

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  6. J says:

    How is the new schedule of interleague play going to effect a DH like Ortiz?

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  7. hildebeast21 says:

    Do steroids actually help you hit? Stay healthy, maybe. What about all the pitchers who were on steroids? Shouldn’t it be a wash?
    I’ve never taken steroids, but I’m 30 years old and I’m 20 pounds heavier now than I was in my senior year of high school, and I’ve gained it by weight lifting. Nothing serious, just three or four times per week. I look much bigger than I did as a teen, or even in University.
    Seems to me like many would label me a steroid user. And then any success I had would be attributed on that.
    Fact is, we know very little about the enhancements that steroids offer a MLB hitter. They help you recover faster, they don’t make you superhuman. You don’t gain in the hand-eye department. You don’t become more patient and calculated (probably the opposite overall).
    Anyway, Odtiz can hit like a wizard. $26million is chicken feed for what he’ll likely do at the plate in the next two seasons.
    I’m surprised he hasn’t been called out for his birth certificate yet, seeing as people also love to play that card where foreign players are involved (Pujols).

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    • Matt says:

      Baseball physics 101.

      If you can swing a bat quicker, you can let the ball travel more before you start your swing. If you start your swing later, you can identify the pitch and location better. Better pitch identification and a faster bat always makes a professional hitter better than what their skill set was before the enhancement.

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Patrick G says:

      Obviously steroids do not help you see the ball better or give you better hand-eye coordination. What they do help with is making you physically stronger, recover from injury and fatigue faster, and help you age better (in the short term, anyway). Your question was “Do steroids help you hit” and the answer is yes and no. Hitters like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, while at least good hitters prior to steroids, were able to do things that nobody in baseball history had ever done, and in late stages of their careers, where normal bodies are declining.
      For what it’s worth, the steroid allegation against Ortiz was an unsubstantiated report of an anonymous test result. Pretty weak, in my view, and he’s fought the allegation (unlike A-Rod, who admitted his steroid use). So it is possible to acknowledge the influence of steroids in the unprecedented offensive explosion of the late 90s while still saying Ortiz is a great player who is innocent until proven guilty. Plus, Ortiz is still around and playing at a high level, despite more rigid steroid testing in recent seasons.

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      • Patrick says:

        I wish people throwing around steroid charges would show a little more rigor:

        (1) Ortiz has admitted that he tested positive in a test as part of the Mitchell Report, and that, in and of itself is significant evidence of PED use. However, it is not proof. The methodology used in support of the Mitchell Report is not readily available — as near as I can tell it isn’t available at all. We don’t know what the rate of false positives in that methodology was. However, if the test was designed to collect representative statistics — as opposed to dole out punishments — then the rate of false positive would not have been insignificant. At least some of the players failing drug tests for the Mitchell Report are probably innocent. (Note: both MLB and the players union would have had an interest in a methodology that balanced the number of false positives and negatives — MLB wanted accurate stats; MLBPA wanted sufficient doubt to prevent retro-active responses).

        (2) David Ortiz’s career numbers are grossly misrepresented on a frequent basis. He hit 30 homers at age 21 and again at age 23. Yes these are minor league numbers, but it is not true he developed power later than other great sluggers.

        (3) He played most of the 2008 season with a wrist injury (not his first) tha required surgery.

        (4) There was no power surge in 2011 or 2012; it was all park effects. His slugging percentage on the road has gradually and consistently fallen from a peak in 2006 (allowing, course for a severe wrist injury). The fact is that Fenway Park has been something of a launching pad the last two years, and this has had a large effect on Ortiz’ production.

        The fact that he did fail a drug test makes it very likely that Ortiz was using PEDs at least at some point in his career. However, we should not forget that Mitchell Report tests almost certainly did not contain the protections against false positives that one expects are present in the current regime. And his career statistics — including the fact that unlike other known PED users Ortiz did not experience a signifcant drop-off (that could not be explained by known injuries) but has actually seen his power (at least on the road) gracefully decline over time — indicate nothing more than prodigious power punctuated by wrist injures.

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  8. Robbie G. says:

    How many dudes with 40+ career WAR accumulated 90+% of it from age 27 on? Can’t be a very big number. David Ortiz is going to wind up being on that list. One of the all-time great late bloomers.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Doug B says:

      Ichiro has 100% of his WAR from age 27 on.


      OK, being serious Davy Lopes also did 100% of his damage from age 27 on. And Edgar Martinez is the best comp to Ortiz in this way. The large majority of his WAR is age 27 on.

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  9. PEDS says:


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  10. AK7007 says:

    Holy hell – PEDs, birth certificates – what are you people wasting time talking about? All that matters is what Ortiz is able to do in the next two years in comparison to what he will be paid and where his team expects to be in the standings. Answer to that: he is going to be worth 3-4 wins per season (probably worth 12-16mil per season on the open market, a bargain) – and the Red Sox don’t have any hope of contention without that kind of surplus value.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Dave Edlund says:

    One of my all-time favorite baseball players. Some players are only great on the field, but Big Papi is a genuine human being. I a so happy he is getting to stay in Boston where he helped lead them to two World Series Championships!

    You are great for baseball!!!

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  12. big papi's pharmacist says:

    Congratulations to David Ortiz.

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  13. Baltar says:

    I could see the justification for some likely AL contender to put out that kind of dough for Big Papi but not for a team that just put themselves firmly in the rebuilding with a lot of money category as the Red Sox did with that big salary dump.
    They could have had BJ Upton or Angel Pagan, to mention just two good players, for that money.

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    • B N says:

      If a team could get either of those guys for twice the money Ortiz is getting, they’re probably snagging a market-level deal. No idea how you think either of them will be stuck at $26m.

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      • Baltar says:

        This site’s own crowd sourcing, if memory serves me correctly, estimated Upton at $52/4, the same AAV as Ortiz was given, and Pagan at $30/3, even less. I’ve seen numbers in that range quoted for both elsewhere.
        Where did you get your “twice as much”?

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    • Jonathan says:

      There’s a lot of PR behind this. The franchise is in disarray, getting a deal with the guy who’s effectively been the face of the franchise for the last ten years with as little drama as possible is important from a business standpoint.

      Hell, I’d argue it’s more important in the wake of the trade. Back when the Sox were tight on salary, I was a firm advocate of offering Ortiz nothing more than a qualifying offer and hardballing him from there. The Sox have been estimated as having about $80MM in room before the luxury tax this year, so overpaying a bit to keep around a franchise icon was worthwhile just from a “we’re stabilizing things” standpoint.

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      • Baltar says:

        Basing your argument on PR factors is pretty dubious. If I were a Red Sox fan, I’d much rather see my team sign someone like Upton or Pagan who would help rebuild the team than Ortiz for sentimental reasons.
        Since I’m a Rays fan, I’m happy to see the Red Sox do foolish things of this sort. Keep it up, Boston!

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      • Jonathan says:

        Two years of Ortiz isn’t going to keep them from going after a guy like Pagan. As a Rays fan, you may be clouded by the perspective of having almost no flex room, but after the “Punto Trade” and extending Ortiz, the Sox have in the neighborhood of $80MM in available payroll before sniffing the luxury tax and we’re looking at one of the worst free agent markets in recent history.

        Unless Cherington essentially goes on a bender and signs Grienke, Hamilton and Swisher, Ortiz for two years is basically a drop in the bucket for their current obligations.

        So, with that in mind, what effect would either Pagan or Upton have had from something like this? Neither one of them is a DH, so it’s not like he’d be taking at bats away if we signed either and Upton himself is a terrible fit for the Sox (Offense trending in the wrong direction and we already have a CF with our second best positional prospect also being a CF).

        The PR aspect is essentially just a justification for overspending. Extending Ortiz was a no-brainer to begin with. He’s the best DH available by a monumental margin and losing him essentially cripples the Red Sox offense. Yeah, they overpaid, but it was for the right reasons.

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    • jason B says:

      “They could have had BJ Upton or Angel Pagan, to mention just two good players, for that money.”

      Totally, totally false.

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    • Patrick G says:

      Baltar, Rays fans have no concept of what it means to a fanbase for players to stick around for the long haul (or any concept of what a fanbase is to begin with). At any rate, Boston still has plenty of money to sign both Upton and Pagan if it makes sense (it doesn’t). And the Sox dumping the bad contracts wasn’t putting themselves in rebuilding mode — it was a no-brainer baseball decision.

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  14. Jimbob says:

    Give him some more chicken and beer…you can have him, and good luck with your new manager with a career winning percentage of .400. He should fit right in with how the team did this year

    -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. NBarnes says:

    Speaking as a Red Sox fan:

    Part of me wants to wince at $13 a year to a 37 year old DH.

    On the other hand, the Red Sox do have a gigantic amount of payroll space, the free agents this offseason are underwhelming, and it’s not actually very much money for very long. The downside risk here is pretty manageable. And though I usually discount the value of making fans happy via having names the fans like around (vs the best way to make fans happy; win baseball games), this seems like a reasonable opportunity to combine the two.

    So, cautious but hopeful thumbs up to this.

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    • Judy says:

      That’s kind of where I’m at, it sounds like too much money, but what else are they going to spend it on if they’re not going to give out longer and riskier contracts?

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      • B N says:

        We could spend it on Josh Hamilton. And a big sports boat! Both excellent investments, with zero chance of sinking.

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      • Jonathan says:

        That would certainly help the Sox with getting into a bigger stadium without leaving Metro Boston. Plus, it would help Mumbles along with his desire to make the waterfront a more desirable place.

        On top of that, there’s already a Remy’s down by the waterfront, so we’re golden.

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  16. thetruth says:

    i guess the change from big papi to medium papi made a huge difference. word to the wise, dont get fat.

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    • Patrick G says:

      Could you please convince Pablo Sandoval of that? I’d really like to see the Giants back in the playoffs next year.

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  17. beckett19 says:

    @ Matt:

    To make your argument work, you would be implying that a player, in this case Ortiz, knows everything you just said. He has to be actively thinking: I know I have a quicker bat, so I can wait a little longer to identify a pitch. And that thought has to go against a lifetime of experience of starting your swing at a certain point. Muscle memory is a powerful thing. Most players are taking steroids, in my opinion, because they just hear it makes you stronger, and helps you recover. Recovery isn’t your point, and thinking you are stronger won’t make you want to start your swing later.

    -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe says:

      So in your world people don’t make any timing adjustments? An older player doesn’t start his swing earlier knowing his bat slowed down and he’s now late on pitches he used to be out in front of? He has a lifetime of experience swinging at a certain point in time so he won’t adjust if his bat slows?

      Similarly if a batter is now out in front of pitches because he has better bat speed he won’t adjust? He may not have taken them for that specific benefit, but are you seriously suggesting that once he sees that benefit he won’t adjust and he’ll just pull balls foul with his increased bat speed because a “lifetime of experience” tells him when to swing?

      Muscle memory is the actual swing, not when you start it. With your absurd logic how does “muscle memory” work with offspeed pitches or even different velocity fastballs.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        Yeah, dude. Swing adjustments are impossible. We all know that Granderson is the exact same hitter that he was in 2010. Why don’t you?

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  18. kruthy says:

    My favorite thing about Ortiz is that he’s made this writer look like a real douchebag:

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  19. channelclemente says:

    Let’s hope there is an adequate prenup.

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  20. Ryan says:

    According to both MLB and the MLBPA, Ortiz’s test wasn’t positive; it was “inconclusive.” Perhaps semantics, but it’s a difference.


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