Whether or not he quit on the team last year is irrelevant. Given the state of the Boston Red Sox in 2012, it would have been hard not to.
What is relevant is the fact that David Ortiz has been one of the most consistent hitters the Red Sox have had over the last several years. He may be 37 by the time the 2013 season begins, and he may have been limited by an injury last season, but he can still hit.
The Red Sox no longer have very many people who can still hit. In that sense, they need all the help they can get.
According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, Boston and Ortiz are engaged in "promising" negotiations that could net the slugger a two-year deal worth somewhere in between $25 million and $30 million.
On Tuesday, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham:
We want to have David back. We’ve had good, amicable dialogue since the end of the season. I talked to [agent Fernando Cuza] [Tuesday] and we’ll continue talking. Our hope is to get something done. I’m sure we’ll talk again this week sometime.
Disciples of Red Sox Nation have met this news with a mix of befuddlement and enthusiasm. Some claim that a 37-year-old designated hitter isn't worth $15 million per year, nor is he worth a two-year commitment. Some call to mind his history of PED drama and claim that those allegations, coupled with his injury history, coupled with his age, could result in an imminent breakdown.
Others are more optimistic when it comes to Ortiz.
Over the course of the last two seasons, the Red Sox have lost almost every player who has been a substantial part of this team's success (and failure) over the better part of the last few seasons. Kevin Youkilis is gone. Josh Beckett is gone. So are Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
By the end of the 2012 season, the Red Sox had so few experienced, veteran players that most of their starting lineup consisted of players who had started the season in the minors. Granted, Boston was nowhere close to the playoff chase and had virtually nothing to play for, so that could have been a factor in the less-than-formidable lineup.
However, the fact still remains that not only is this team sorely lacking for veterans, but it's also lacking for veteran leadership.
Ortiz provides that. All things considered, his numbers aren't too shabby, either.
In 90 games last season, Ortiz hit .318 with 23 homers and 60 RBI (which actually marked his highest batting average since Boston won the World Series in 2007). The next best hitter who played close to as many games was Dustin Pedroia, who hit .290 with 15 homers and 65 RBI. Only two other players hit more than 20 home runs, and only three others drove in more than 60 runs.
Of course, now that they no longer have Youkilis, Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox could make some offseason moves and bring in some guys who can actually hit the ball. However, there aren't a whole lot of veteran power hitters on the market, and the Red Sox probably need more help than will be available to them on the open market in the offseason.
Ortiz is a good guy to have. He's proven that he can still hit in his old age. He may have missed around 70 games due to a strained right Achilles, but in that sense, maybe we should hope Bobby Valentine was right and Ortiz just gave up on playing because it was clear this team was going nowhere. Maybe Ortiz wasn't as unhealthy as he seemed at the end of 2012.
Even if Bobby V was right, Boston still needs Ortiz. They don't really have many other bright spots at this point.
If nothing else, he can hold the Red Sox over until they find someone to fill one of several holes in this lineup.
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