This off season will mark the fourth straight this writer (and a billion others) will be pondering what the Red Sox should do with David Ortiz. In the first annual pondering, the Red Sox were encouraged to break ties with Ortiz. That was after his 1.9 ($8.4 million) fWAR season 2008. The second annual version was the same as Ortiz was even worse and had a 0.3 ($1.2 million) fWAR season in 2009. The third annual edition changed its tune after Ortiz posted a 2.6 ($10.4 million) fWAR season in 2010. That edition said that the Red Sox should pick up his option for 2011 but not sign him to a new long-term contract. That's exactly what the Red Sox did. Now, in this fourth annual edition, Ortiz is coming off his best season in quite a long while where he was worth $18.8 million with a 4.6 fWAR season. So what should the Red Sox do?
Ortiz could again hit a fastball again in 2011. He could hit lefties again and he led the league off of them. That was after three straight seasons of being fairly pathetic against southpaws. You could no longer pound him inside to get him out. He had his best line drive percentage since 2005. He had sixty-two less strikeouts than the year before. Unlike the previous four seasons, David Ortiz had positive runs over average against every pitch type thrown at him. So again, what should the Red Sox do?
Ortiz has made $13 million or so the past several seasons. That doesn't seem like a lot of money for the threat that David Ortiz gives a line up. If you add up his last four seasons and divide them by four, Ortiz has earned an average of $9.7 million of this $13 million salary. Do you go by that or go solely by his last year's production worth $18.8 million? You have to go with the four year average, right? And you have to consider that David Ortiz will turn 36 five days from now. Clearly, you have to figure his best days are behind him rather than in front of him.
And as good as his season was a year ago, it didn't end well. He hit all of one homer the entire month of September and drove in only eight runs. That has to figure into the equation doesn't it? Ortiz reversed his recent trend of starting terribly and finishing strong to starting well and finishing with a dud of a month. A month which we all know what happened to the Boston Red Sox.
Ben Cherington, Boston's new GM says that a lot of their off season strategy will depend on if David Ortiz "is here" or not "here." In other words, after last year's post season splurge, there are limited funds and if the Red Sox give a big chunk of change to Ortiz, there is less to do other things. Ortiz is a big part of the Red Sox mystique. He has the persona as a professional assassin, especially in the clutch. How does that figure into Cherington's plans or does it at all? Frankly, that's all a bunch of talk and the only relevant facts here are the numbers, which you have already been given.
Okay, it's time to get to the bottom line. Last year, this observer said the Red Sox should pick up the last year of Ortiz's option. It was a good investement, earning more than $5 million more than his paychecks. The recommendation here is a one year deal only with perhaps an option year for no more than $12 million. That is higher than his four year average, but gives him the benefit of the doubt based on last year. The one year does not tie the Red Sox up for years to come.
That's what the Red Sox should do. It's unclear as to what they will do. Ortiz will ultimately feel slapped in the face with such an offer. Ball players aren't very realistic about their own worth. Perhaps he'll grumble and take it to stay in Boston for another year. If he stupidly gets a higher offer somewhere else, be sure he will take it. But that doesn't mean that the Red Sox should try to match a higher offer if some sort of bidding war develops. His future is not long, nor bright--not when he's 36 and can't play a position in the field. Cherington seems somewhat ambivalent or perhaps he is simply not optimistic that Ortiz will take a reasonable offer. The Red Sox would love to have David Ortiz back. But it should only be on their terms no matter how good he was in 2011.