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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.