For at least the past two years, that option has seemed rather expensive given the 34-year-old designated hitter's early struggles over two consecutive seasons. Despite Ortiz' repeated resurgences, many expected the Red Sox to decline that option in favor of a more affordable two-year deal. However, the conventional thinking may have focused too much on the option's financial cost and not enough on its duration.
That Theo Epstein may be inclined to exercise Ortiz' option indicates he might be more concerned with roster flexibility than cost control. For an organization whose pockets are as deep as the Red Sox', such priorities seem spot on.
Red Sox Nation can hardly forget Ortiz' .143 average during May 2009 and April 2010. For two seasons, Ortiz has been booed early and often and generally considered washed up before going on a tear and finishing strong as ever. In 2009, the four-time Silver Slugger failed to homer until May, but he subsequently launched 28 bombs and ended the season with 99 RBI and a 794 OPS. To date in 2010, Ortiz has followed up a weak start with 28 dingers, 87 RBI, and an 893 OPS.
Sabermetrically, Ortiz hasn't earned his keep since 2007 when he achieved $27.6 million in value. However, if Ortiz continues to produce throughout this September, he will likely again be worth his contract and then some.
All this analysis is simply to clarify Ortiz' production and value over the short term. Ortiz has made clear that he wants to stay in Boston where he is a proven, successful commodity. Although the likes of Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko will all be available this winter, Ortiz' long success in Boston makes him a far more attractive option for the 2011 Red Sox.
While a two or three year contract extension at a lower yearly rate might save the Red Sox a few bucks, it would tie their hands at designated hitter for the near future. What's more, although Ortiz' successive comeback seasons are a good sign, they offer no guarantee he'll be able to sustain his success into his late thirties.
Exercising the option and keeping Ortiz for only one more year allows Boston the flexibility to offer a Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez the kind of long-term, mammoth contract they will surely demand.
As surprising as Edes' information seems at first glance, it all makes perfect sense for the 2011 Red Sox and beyond.