Sox fans would love to see more of the Ortiz home run swing in 2013 and beyond.
With a disastrous season finally ending tonight in New York, the Boston Red Sox can finally move forward and begin the process of rebuilding their underachieving team.
Because of both his production and his importance to the entire organization, David Ortiz must be the first player the Sox lock up for the 2013 season and beyond.
Prior to going down with an Achilles strain on July 16, Ortiz was enjoying his best season since 2006. He was on pace for over 35 home runs, 42 doubles and about 100 RBI. His batting average (.318) and OPS (1.026) were both in the top three best seasons in his 16-year career.
Not bad for a guy who, at 36 years old, should be in decline.
After playing the last two seasons on one-year contracts, the beloved Big Papi is justifiably looking for one last multi-year deal to finish out his career. Here are five reasons why the Sox need to be the team to give it to him:
As Big Papi said in a recent story by ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, “power makes the world go round.”
The Sox need the thump that Ortiz provides in the middle of their lineup. Even an aging version of the feared DH is better than anyone the Sox have on the current roster; despite playing in just one game after July 16, Ortiz will still finish second on the team in home runs (23) and fifth in doubles (26).
On a team lacking a true middle of the order presence (please don’t try to argue Jacoby Ellsbury as a guaranteed 30-plus home run threat), the Sox would be wise to keep around a player who has clearly shown he can still mash.
One of the byproducts of shipping out so many veterans and bringing in so many inexperienced young players is that the Sox now have a dearth of veteran clubhouse leadership. Ortiz, having just finished his tenth season in Boston and a veteran of two World Series, has become the elder statesman of this young team.
Edes noted in his ESPN Boston story that Ortiz has already taken an active mentoring role with Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks, two young players the Sox are hoping will anchor the left side of the infield for many years to come.
Allowing someone with Big Papi’s experience to go would make adjusting to the rigors of playing in Boston that much more difficult for the Sox’s many promising prospects.
At a time where most perceptions surrounding this franchise have taken a decidedly negative turn, Ortiz has largely escaped criticism and has remained a beloved figure in Boston. Along with Dustin Pedroia, he is the face of the Sox franchise and a final vestige of the team’s recent glories.
His marketability makes him a unique commodity, and the Sox should at least partially consider this factor when assessing his value to the team. They’re going to have a hard time selling a whole lot of Felix Doubront and Ryan Lavarnway jerseys, no matter what the players’ upside.
From a purely financial standpoint, Ortiz represents a huge win for the Sox as well. He will only command a short-term contract, which is something the Sox have clearly demonstrated is of great value to them with veteran players.
While few teams carry a full time DH anymore, few teams have a DH of Ortiz’s pedigree. Paying someone who, at least in year one of the deal, is a lock for 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI is worth the sacrifice of his inablity to play in the field.
The open market is not exactly loaded with high-quality talent, either. To get a player with similar numbers, the Sox would have to promise more years and dollars to an unknown quantity.
While it is never sound financial practice to pay someone only for what they’ve done in the past, Ortiz has earned a commitment from the Sox. While his incessant refrain of wanting “respect” has grown a bit tired, the point he made to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber is that he has shown he can remain productive despite his advancing age.
Even if Ortiz sees some slippage in year two (and/or year three, should he get that lengthy a contract), GM Ben Cherington could get creative with the yearly salary to make any decline a bit more palatable.
Hypothetically, front-loading a two-year, $35 million contract so that Ortiz gets $22 million in year one and $13 million in year two would reduce the team’s risk should the slugger cease his elite-level production.
In any case, the organization must show Ortiz that he is as valued a member of the franchise as anyone.