Monday, March 24, 2014

Sox Should've Waited to Extend Ortiz

Ortiz is a happy camper, but now he needs to produce (ESPN)
A few short months after carrying the Red Sox to their third World Series championship in the last ten years (and he literally carried them), David Ortiz had already grown unhappy. As usual, he was displeased with his contract, so much so that he threatened to leave Boston if he didn't get what he wanted.

It was an empty threat, of course, but the Red Sox responded to their frustrated slugger by giving him what he got what he wanted: another year tacked onto his contract, which was set to expire at the end of this season. The extension will net him an additional $16 million in 2015, Ortiz's age-39 season.

I guess that means Ortiz can shut up about his contract status and let his bat do the talking, at least until next winter.

Last month I wrote in my column for The Tufts Daily that the Red Sox should hold off on re-signing Ortiz, and I still stand by that argument. Extending a 38 year-old is incredibly risky, especially when all of said 38 year-old's value is tied up in his bat. Yes, Ortiz has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the past three years, but he's going to stop hitting at some point, probably sooner rather than later. The Red Sox shouldn't have been in any rush to re-sign their aging star, and I don't see why they didn't hold off to confirm that he can still mash big league pitching before committing another year and millions of dollars to him.

What Boston should have done was wait until the All-Star Break and, if Ortiz remained healthy and productive, hand him his advance for the 2015 season. That way they would have been able to make a fair assessment about the state of his skills and health without letting him reach free agency and possibly a) command more money or b) go someplace else.

Ortiz is a man who equates dollars with respect, but the Red Sox have paid him more than $110 million in player salaries throughout his time in Boston (with another $30 million on the way): isn't that enough? And, don't forget, they gave him a chance in 2003 after the Twins released him. The Red Sox don't owe him a thing. They were already paying him to hit baseballs this year, so if anything it's Ortiz who should be worried about holding up his end of the bargain.

I understand the justification for this deal extends beyond the baseball field. If there's anyone who deserves a year of contract security, it's Ortiz. But sentimental reasons aside, this deal just doesn't make a whole lot of baseball sense. Thankfully Boston's payroll is large enough that it can absorb $16 million in deadweight if Papi turns into a pumpkin.

Of course, if Ortiz has another great year and the Red Sox make the playoffs I'll feel differently about this move a year from now. But right now, I'm not a fan.

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