For the Boston Red Sox, the months ahead may be one of the more interesting times in the franchise's history.
After shedding more than $250 million in salary, the Red Sox have been given a chance to reboot the organization in what has seemed to be a downward spiral since last September's collapse.
Several holes need to be filled, and general manager Ben Cherington needs to be creative this offseason for the team to contend in the near future. While starting pitching will be the No.1 priority, several holes exist in what was once one of the best offenses in baseball. Instead, manager Bobby Valentine has been forced to trot out something that resembles a split-squad spring training lineup the last few weeks of the season.
The need for a legit threat in the middle of the lineup is the main reason David Ortiz will be a member of the Red Sox in 2013, but it may have to come on the team's terms. Last offseason, the disgruntled slugger avoided arbitration and signed a one-year deal for $14.575 million (via Ian Browne of the Red Sox official website).
This offseason may be more of the same for Ortiz as the new CBA has hindered any leverage he may have had on the team. Under the old CBA, if Ortiz were offered arbitration this year, he'd most likely be looking at a pay increase from the $14.575 million he made last year. But the Red Sox no longer have to offer arbitration in order to get draft-pick compensation if he opts to sign elsewhere.
The Red Sox and all other MLB teams have five days after the World Series is over to make what is being a called a "qualifying" offer to their free agents-to-be. The qualifying offer is determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year, which is estimated to be around $12-13 million.
After a qualifying offer is made, the player has seven days to either decline or accept the offer. If the player declines and signs with another team, his previous team will receive a pick as compensation at the end of the first round.
This new system hurts Ortiz in a number of ways. If the Red Sox make the qualifying offer to Ortiz, which seems like the obvious choice, he has to either accept less money than last year or test his market in free agency. But with draft-pick compensation hanging over his head, the market for a 37-year-old DH, who only played 90 games this season, will be very thin. Couple that with Papi's desire for a two-year deal around $14-15 million a year, and the market is non-existent.
Ultimately, I believe the team will work out a two-year deal for Ortiz around $22 million. It's a number that is lower than the player's demands, but most likely higher than anything he will get on the market. Whatever the case may be, look for the Red Sox to move quickly on Ortiz because there are many other needs they need to address this offseason in what will be a full rebuilding effort.