MLB: David Ortiz's Contract with the Boston Red Sox Looks Like Grand Larceny
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Some potential Hall of Famers have had a hard time finding work this winter, while others have had to settle for rather humbling deals.
The Minnesota Twins signed 40-year-old DH Jim Thome to a 1-year, $3 million deal, and Tampa Bay came to terms with 38-year-old DH Manny Ramirez on a 1-year deal for just $2 million. Ramirez made $45 million over the past two seasons, so that's quite a pay cut.
Thome had 25 homers and a 1.039 OPS over 340 plate appearances last season. Ramirez had a .298 average and an .870 OPS over 320 PAs.
The Oakland A's signed 36-year-old DH Hideki Matsui, to a 1-year, $4.25 million deal. Matsui batted .274 with 21 homers and 84 RBI for the Angels last season. Though not a HOF candidate, Matsui can still produce, and the A's got him at an affordable price.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old free agent DH Vladimir Guerrero is still seeking a job. Of the 11 players last season who hit at least .300, had 25 homers and 100 RBI, Guerrero had the fewest strikeouts (60). Yet no one wants him?
On the other hand, David Ortiz had an .899 OPS over 600 PAs last season and received a 1-year, $12.5 million extension from the Red Sox.
After two years of precipitous decline, the 35-year-old Ortiz brought his average back up to .270 in 2010 and led the team with 32 homers and 102 RBI.
Yet, given the recent developments in the DH market, it looks like Ortiz held a gun to the Red Sox and robbed them blind.
Remember those stories about him possibly being upset about having to take a 1-year deal? That seems highly doubtful now. To the contrary, he must feel like one very lucky man.
From 2005-2008, Ortiz had a strikeout percentage of 16.4 and a home run percentage of 6.2. However, over the last two seasons, Ortiz's strikeout percentage leapt to 22.6 percent, while his home run percentage dropped to 4.9 percent.
Ortiz struck out a career-high 145 times last season, eclipsing his previous career-high of 134, set in 2009. Setting career highs in strikeouts in back-to-back seasons, at his age, is an ominous sign. Over his first five seasons in Boston, Ortiz batted .302. But those days are now long gone. Over the past three seasons, his batting average has dropped to just .257.
Without question, Ortiz is a player in decline, and he will be grossly overpaid this season. He is probably worth $5 million per year at this point, but the Red Sox didn't want to deal with a malcontent in their clubhouse or on their bench this season.
If Ortiz has another year that mirrors the last, the Red Sox will feel satisfied with his high price tag. If he underperforms though, they will have to take solace in the fact that it's only a 1-year deal.
Ortiz should feel grateful for his current pact. Never again will he merit a contract with such a high annual value. He will be lucky to make half his $12 million salary in 2012.
Plus, the slugger's place in Red Sox history seems quite secure, another reason for him to feel content.
With 291 homers as a member of the Red Sox, this season Ortiz will join Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans as the only Red Sox players with 300 home runs. That's some pretty fine company. And, with 932 RBI with Boston, he could become just the sixth player to drive in 1,000 runs with the team (joining Yastrzemski, Williams, Rice, Evans and Doerr).
Additionally, with 349 career homers (as a member of the Twins and Red Sox), Ortiz has a reasonable shot at 400 for his career. He needs to average about 25 homers over the next two years to reach the mark, which is certainly possible.
Unlike his contemporaries at the DH spot, Ortiz didn't have to take a pay cut and resort to 1-year deal with a new team this winter.
The pay cut will come in 2012, but hopefully it will be with Boston. If Ortiz performs up to par, that would be the best thing for both him and the Red Sox.
Sean is a freelance writer and creator of Kennedy's Commentary, a dedicated Red Sox blog. He has written for Baseball Digest and other magazines, newspapers and Websites.
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