Boston Red Sox: 10 Reasons Sox Should Let David Ortiz Walk
It is a reality that all Boston fans must face: David Ortiz will one day be gone.
That doesn’t mean that anyone has forgotten how important Ortiz has been to the Boston sports community. Not only is David Ortiz one of the greatest designated hitters of all-time and potential first-ballot Hall of Famer, he was also instrumental in helping the Red Sox win their first title in 86 years.
However, entering a year that is going to be pivotal in a changing baseball climate, here are 10 reasons the Red Sox need to bid Papi a fond farewell.
The Everyday DH Is Dying out
David Ortiz is one of the only remaining everyday designated hitters in baseball.
Gone are the days of Edgar Martinez and teams in the American League signing players to bat exclusively. Instead, teams have utilized the position to give players a day off from the field, prioritize lefty versus righty matchups and generally incorporate different players into their lineups each day.
At the end of the day, the DH has taken on a new level of versatility that David Ortiz does not possess. There was a time that Ortiz could play a serviceable first base, and he still can for the time that interleague rules forces him to, but he becomes a defensive liability and simply is not a first baseman.
The Designated Hitter, as a Position, Is in Flux
Even if David Ortiz does return to the Red Sox and maintains the level of success he has hit in the last two seasons, the DH position is going to be much more unreliable as the MLB goes forward with its realignment process.
In 2013, the Houston Astros will move to the American League, which will balance out the number of teams between both the American and National League. The move will allow teams to play a more integrated schedule, similar to that of the NFL.
With that, interleague play as it has existed up until now will change. Instead of being a two-week interruption in the middle of June, interleague play will be woven into the regular season as seamlessly as any extra-divisional game.
The difference, of course, will be that when American League teams are on road in National League parks, they will have to adjust to the absence of a DH. In particular, the Red Sox will have to shuffle their lineup more often to accommodate David Ortiz.
I would go as far to say that the MLB needs to make the designated hitter rule uniform between both leagues, but if that means eliminating it, it means eliminating David Ortiz.
He Prevents the Red Sox from Moving Forward
There is a good chance that he can be a .300 hitter or better in the middle of their lineup, and so, it does not make sense to move him in the short-term. Still, the short-term should not be Boston's focus.
The argument here is not that the Red Sox should ignore a player who can produce so substantially, the argument is that they should forgo a 36-year-old who can produce so substantially. Boston is in an undeniable bridge year after dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.
In addition to the money that deal liberated, re-investing Ortiz’s asking price of $25 million over two years into substantially younger talent is how you build success over an extended period of time. Instead, it seems that the Red Sox might be looking at Ortiz as a “right now” player, when the rest of the team is not quite there.
There Is No Market for Him
With so few comparable players to compete with Ortiz on the free-agency market, it is hard to gauge an appropriate value for Ortiz in comparison to other salaries at his position.
The two players who are most similar to Ortiz are Jim Thome and Travis Hafner.
Thome, who may be a Hall of Fame inductee one day, has devolved to a journeyman pinch-hitter in recent years, bouncing between the Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles. Ortiz made $14.6 million last year; Jim Thome has not come near those figures in four years.
Although Hafner has made that much in recent years, he has been clearly overpaid. Hafner has played in fewer than 100 games in four of the last five seasons, and the Indians would be wise to invoke his $2.75 million buyout this season.
He Can't Avoid the Shift
There is no bigger advantage to playing in Fenway Park than the left field wall.
At 37 feet, the affectionately-named “Green Monster” turns many would-be outs into base hits, or more if the fielder is fooled by a surprising ricochet.
For left-handed hitters, poking a cheap hit off the wall for 81 games a year should seem like a batting-average dream-come-true.
Not for Ortiz.
It is common practice for teams to put the shift on Ortiz, and it seems even more common that he hits into it. A quick glance at Ortiz’s spray chart makes this all too clear.
Further, the majority of his flyball outs are to left field, suggesting that pitchers are forcing him inside and he is trying to put them the other way. If Ortiz cannot force defenses to respect him to left field, his value at home drops dramatically.
He Is Aging
Not only is David Ortiz getting close to a baseball retirement age at 36, he has also been injured in recent years, most notably injuring his Achilles tendon in July.
The two year deal that is proposed has Ortiz finishing out his contract at age 38 and likely retiring thereafter.
But what if Ortiz is unable to rehab this injury properly at this age? What if he re-injures it the by returning too quickly the way he did at the end of August? What if he is simply old and his body is starting to give out on him?
If that is the case, then Ortiz's ability to contribute in the next two years may not truly align with the asking price of $25 million that ESPN’s Gordon Edes reported.
He Wants More Than One Year
One of Ortiz’s biggest sticking points this offseason is avoiding the one-year deals that he has been offered the past few seasons.
At 36, there is no guarantee that Ortiz will last to the end of a two-year contract. In particular, Ortiz played in only 90 games this past season due to an injury to his heel. Despite his production the last two years, his age, injuries and inconsistency make him a liability for more than one year at a time.
No doubt Ortiz’s numbers up until the point of his injury this season were worthy of an extended contract—he hit .318 in 2012—as was his .309 season in 2011. However, although he had good seasons in the last two years, his production in the three years prior never eclipsed .270, and his home run production plateaued in 2006.
At this point, management cannot foresee what Ortiz will be able to do for the next two years. If Ortiz has such strong belief in his value, he should be more confident entering into arbitration.
His numbers have earned him that much.
He Still Has Value
With the baseball season over, free agency is set to open and Ortiz is fair game come Saturday morning.
Although it seems that the Red Sox intend to keep Ortiz, The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham suggested that the Sox are planning to offer Ortiz a one-year contract for $13.3 million, making Ortiz a restricted free agent.
Granted, the move is an insurance policy to ensure teams are less inclined to go after Ortiz, but if they do, the Red Sox would still benefit by receiving a draft pick should Ortiz sign.
With the Red Sox moving forward, it might be a better choice to take the draft pick.
He Complains Publicly
Regardless of the manager, Big Papi has contributed his share of media controversy in the last two years.
In August of 2011, Ortiz confusingly confronted manager Terry Francona during a post-game presser regarding the official scoring of RBI he had driven in. This was at the start of August when the Red Sox still had a share of first place in the AL East, but the wheels really came off from there.
The following offseason, amid a slew of leadership questions directed at Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, Ortiz took exception towards Boston media for not considering him a leader in the clubhouse.
But perhaps the most confusing complaints from Ortiz came in July of 2012, when Ortiz addressed concerns with his contract after having just hit his 400th career home run. He was mostly concerned about only being offered one-year deals, but his recent performances at the time of those contracts had not dictated otherwise.
Ortiz has the potential to be very distracting on a team that is trying to minimize distractions.
He Is an Alleged Quitter
Having watched the media nightmare that was Bobby Valentine’s season with the Red Sox, it is hard to trust his comments with Bob Costas on NBC Sports last week.
Nevertheless, it is out there: Bobby Valentine said David Ortiz quit.
True or not, Ortiz is a marked man. That comment will lay dormant in hibernation through the winter, only to re-emerge the day Ortiz reports to Fenway South in February.
Give it time. If Ortiz goes into a slump or has a recurring injury or any extraneous problem, really, the Boston media will turn to these comments and questions will rise.
And what if they are true?
Valentine qualified his comments, telling The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that, “At that point, there was nothing for David to play for or to risk his career…after the trade, it was clearly a lost season, so why risk it?”
But the point remains: If Ortiz quit on his team, do you want him leading another one? Fans and management alike should hope that Bobby V’s parting shot to his former clubhouse are indeed exaggerated.
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