According to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, an arbitration hearing date has been scheduled for David Ortiz but neither the Red Sox nor the players' union will reveal the date. (*Writers Note* - The date has now been released for Monday, February 13th.)
Without knowing the exact date of the hearing, it is hard to gauge exactly how much time remains for a deal to be hammered out between Ortiz's agent and the Sox front office. While we do know that all arbitration cases will be concluded by the February 17th deadline, an end to this lingering drama could come before then.
Here is what we know about the goings-on thus far. Initially, upon his free agency, the Red Sox offered Ortiz a two-year deal worth $18 million.
The slugger declined that offer in short order.
When time came to file for arbitration, David Ortiz filed for $16.5 million while the Sox countered with $12.65 million offer. $4 million is a huge gap in perceived value.
Here is what we can assume from these facts: The Red Sox are interested in Ortiz for multiple years at relatively short money. Ortiz wants multiple years for big money. In my opinion, the two sides will end up going to arbitration. I cannot see the Red Sox giving Ortiz a deal north of $10 million for multiple years without assuming another shoe to drop in the near future.
For example, Kevin Youkilis has an impact on this deal, believe or not. Before we get to that, let's take a look at how the arbitration case will likely pan out.
Ortiz's camp will likely try to compare him to the other sluggers who signed mega deals this winter: Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. It could be a fair case considering if he were to enter free agency and had not accepted arbitration, any NL team to look at him would utilize him as a first baseman.Again, the age factor is against him. Both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are younger players who signed large, long-term contracts. Ortiz views himself still in that category. However, Ortiz's last "off the charts" season came in 2007 where he hit 35 home runs with 117 RBI while leading the league in walks (111) and OBP (.445).
Ortiz has not led the league in any statistical category since that time. Has he been a 30/100 guy? Pretty much. Is he in the twilight of his career? Most likely.
Youkilis is currently under contract for $12 million this season. There is a team option on his contract to bring him back in 2013 for $13 million. Youkilis is 32 years old entering the season and will turn 33 in June.
Ortiz is 36 this season and looking for $4.5 million more than what Youkilis is making. I've made the case before that the role of the DH is changing and Youk more closely fits the mold of the future.
Does anyone disagree that after this season Youk needs to be a first baseman or DH?
By locking Ortiz up for one year in arbitration, the team would allow itself significant flexibility at the end of the 2012 season. They could either re-sign Youkilis for $13 million to play DH (likely giving the third base opening to Will Middlebrooks) or buy Youk out for $1 million. That would also leave the team the option of once again offering Ortiz arbitration, or just letting him walk at the end of the 2012 season.
At the end of the day, if this does make it to a hearing, and the end result is Ortiz being the victor it would mean a large contract for him to live up to in 2012.
If he doesn't, you can be sure the Sox won't extend an arbitration offer next year.