Upon season's end, it became quite apparent that David Ortiz's free agency, once considered merely a formality that would lead him back to Fenway, may very well signal the end of his Boston career.
Ortiz is clearly, and understandably, displeased with the way the 2011 season ended for his Red Sox, and now he may want to just try to wash away the bitter taste that's left and move on to a new franchise.
We all know how the Red Sox finished in 2011. After starting spring training as World Series favorites, they got off to a rocky start, getting swept in their first two series. However, they quickly turned things around and posted the best mark in the American League after that...that is, until September.
Heading into September, the Red Sox held a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card and were in striking distance of the surprising New York Yankees for the AL East title. No team in major league history had ever held a nine-game lead in September and not made the playoffs. But it's baseball, and it's true what they say—anything can happen.
The Red Sox suffered the worst collapse in MLB history, losing on the final day of the season to the surging Rays.
Since then, there's been nothing to smile about in Boston. Longtime manager Terry Francona, the man who led Boston to their first World Series title in 86 years, and then another one three years later, was fired. Then their brilliant general manager, Theo Epstein, decided he wanted to end another curse and headed to the friendly confines in Chicago. Finally, their All-Star closer, Jonathan Papelbon, went off and accepted a four-year, $50 million offer from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now even fan-favorite Ortiz might go. But where? Well, in an interview with ESPN earlier this offseason, Ortiz said he wouldn't be opposed to joining the rival Yankees, and why would he be? There's plenty of reasons to want to come to New York. He is very good friends with current Yankees Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. The Yankees have always conducted themselves respectfully and with class (something the Red Sox can't say with their little "chicken and beer" fiasco).
Oh, and the Yankees always make it to October baseball, something Ortiz hasn't seen in over two years.
But the question is, where would he fit on the Yankees? The answer is nowhere. The truth is, Ortiz would be an awful fit on the Yankees. Why, might you ask? Well, let's examine this a little closer...
Up until September, it looked like the Yankees would have a vacancy at the designated hitter spot going into 2012. Jorge Posada had suffered through a dreadful 2011 season, and retirement looked like the most likely outcome for the Yankee legend. While Posada has said that he will not be returning to the Yankees and that retirement is still the most likely scenario, the Yankees were not-so-unexpectedly given a new DH when rosters expanded on September 1st.
Top prospect Jesus Montero tore onto the major league scene, hitting .328 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 18 games down the stretch, all but cementing himself a spot on the 2012 roster as the everyday DH, who can also serve as the backup catcher to Russell Martin. Montero will receive the majority of the at-bats from the DH spot this season, with A-Rod, Jeter and Teixeira likely taking the rest.
So, I ask you, where does the position-less David Ortiz get his at-bats if there is no opening at the DH spot? The answer is he doesn't. There's no sense in signing a DH when you have a much younger, and possibly better player who can actually play a position.
But for argument's sake, let's say the Yankees wind up trading Montero for a starting pitcher. Would Ortiz be a fit then?
Even if Montero is traded for a starting pitcher, there still would not be a place for Big Papi on the Yankees. For years, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have spoken about the concept of using a revolving-door DH instead of having the spot reserved for one big bat.
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are starting to get older at the ages of 36 and 37, respectively, so they will require an increasing number of at-bats as the DH. This is especially true in the case of A-Rod, who has missed significant time over the past few seasons due to injuries.
Last year was one to forget for Rodriguez, who missed 63 games with a torn meniscus and a sprained thumb. While he has shown that he is still an excellent fielding third baseman, there is doubt as to how much longer he will be able to take the field and hit at the level that his massive contract demands of him. Receiving rest on a consistent basis may be the only hope of A-Rod returning to the level that once had him known as the best player in baseball.
Jeter has also shown some wear and tear over the past two seasons. While he did not spend any time on the DL in 2010, his lackluster performance points to a possible injury that was likely not brought to the attention of the Yankees' trainers and medical staff. After a calf strain finally forced the captain to the DL last season, it seemed like Jeter was finally able to get back to his old self, hitting .331 the rest of the way. If all it's going to take is a little extra rest to get the Jeter that we've all been accustomed to back, I say give him the extra DH days.
Girardi and Cashman have faith in Eduardo Nunez's bat, even if his glove is made of stone. They would have no qualms in playing him on a regular basis in order to rest the left side of the infield.
So even if room opens up for Ortiz this offseason, it's unlikely that the Yankees will look to add him into their mix.
Last season with the Red Sox, David Ortiz made $12.5 million. However, after a resurgent season following two consecutive off years, he will likely look for a raise. After all, he did hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBI, albeit with half of his games being played at Fenway Park. Expect Ortiz to demand north of $15 million for 2012, while likely also searching for a multi-year deal.
The Yankees will probably be unwilling to give a DH that kind of salary, and there's almost no way they would give someone like Ortiz a multi-year contract. While he hasn't had many issues with injuries as of yet, a man of Ortiz's size can only last so long before his knees start to wear down.
Be honest, would you want to give Ortiz a three-year deal for $45-$50 million? I know I wouldn't, and if the Yankees are smart, they'll let someone else take the risk.
The Yankees should stay away from David Ortiz...far away.
He's a great player and will be an excellent addition for some other American League team, just not the New York Yankees. The Yankees already have an immensely talented young player ready to join the big league lineup in Jesus Montero, and they need the DH spot to be able to incorporate him. They also need it to rest some of their veterans, or they will run the risk of injuries plaguing their 2012 season.
Plus, in the scheme of things, adding Ortiz to the roster for the next few years would go against the Yankees' future plans. The plan is to get younger and to rely more on their thriving farm system than on free agency in an attempt to avoid locking themselves into harmful contracts like those of A-Rod and A.J. Burnett's.
Montero is just one of many exciting young players that will soon take their place on the major league roster. Prospects like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos are being groomed to become integral parts of the starting rotation, while guys like Nunez, Gary Sanchez and Slade Heathcott will be able to complement the offensive core nicely.
Ortiz would be a welcome addition, but only if that new CBA includes a 10th batter being added to the lineup.
Ortiz will be fielding a wide array of offers from many different AL teams, such as the Blue Jays, Orioles, Angels and Twins, and whichever team signs him will be signing a big-time threat to insert into the middle of their order. My guess is that he stays in the AL East, where he has enjoyed so much success, but this time for the Toronto Blue Jays. Rogers Centre would suit Big Papi perfectly, and providing protection for his friend Jose Bautista will only benefit the both of them.
For all of you hoping Ortiz would stick it to the Red Sox and sign with their rivals, I'm sorry, but it would just be a horrible fit.