BOSTON (CBS) — The news this week that David Ortiz and the Red Sox will meet soon to seriously discuss a contract is without question good news for anyone who cares about the team.
In the games he played before his season was essentially ended in mid-July, Ortiz was a rare bright spot for a wildly underachieving team. Despite playing in just 90 of the team’s 162 games (55.6 percent), Ortiz finished second on the Sox with 23 home runs and fifth with 60 RBIs.
While there’s very little question as to whether the Red Sox need Ortiz on the roster next year (and perhaps beyond), there is plenty of room for debate regarding how much money he should make.
Last season, with essentially no other teams interested in his services, Ortiz “settled” on a a one-year, $14.575 million contract with the Red Sox, just barely avoiding an arbitration hearing.
This year, after Ortiz showed the vulnerability of a 36-year-old by missing the final two and a half months of the season (save for one game), it’s unlikely he draws more interest from other teams this offseason than he did last fall.
However, one thing Ortiz won’t have to contend with this offseason is arbitration. CSNNE’s Sean McAdam explained that MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement now prevents teams from offering arbitration to their free agents, instead allowing them to make a “qualifying offer.” The dollar amount of that offer is the average salary of the highest-paid 20 percent of players in the league, which this year comes out to a little less than $13.5 million.
For Ortiz, that would represent a pay cut of more than one million, and he’s shown in the past that no matter what, he feels he never deserves a pay cut. Even dropping him in the lineup when he was hitting .150 after a full month of baseball was a difficult task, and it’s a move about which he’s still sore years later.
So while the Red Sox would be well within reason to offer Ortiz a one-year, $10 million deal, it would almost certainly anger Ortiz, the longest-tenured member of the team and the only link remaining to the 2004 team.
Ortiz no doubt has a value to the team in the PR sense, so with that, the Red Sox can afford to throw maybe two more million his way. Would a one-year, $12 million deal be fair? Would a two-year, $21.5 million deal be fair? Of course, either would, at least to a reasonable, rational person. This negotiation, however, doesn’t involve that person.
Ortiz complained publicly on at least three separate occasions this season that he wasn’t offered the multi-year contract he desired. In July, Ortiz told a USA Today reporter that he felt “humiliated” and “embarrassed” at the Red Sox’ contract offer of $12.65 million for one season.
“If you go crazy and give contracts to whoever comes along despite not knowing how they’re going to do, then you don’t give me my due consideration, even though I do my thing every year, [expletive] that,” Ortiz told the newspaper.
At the end of September, after he knew he’d be entering 2013 after missing a half of a baseball season, Ortiz stood firm on his belief that he’s deserving of a long, lucrative contract.
“In my case,” Ortiz told the Boston Herald, “it’s not even all about the money. It’s all about respect. That’s the way I see it.”
Of course, as has been evident for years and became painstakingly clear this season, respect simply means money and years for Ortiz. That leaves the Red Sox in the position of being fair and smart (one-year deal with a pay cut or at the same salary) or keeping their temperamental star happy (two- or three-year deal worth at least $14 million per season).
Whichever route they choose, the Red Sox will be the ones holding all the power when the two sides meet next week. If Ortiz feels slighted by an offer of “just” $12 million for one season at the age of 37 after a season cut in half due to injury, the Red Sox can simply let him test the market. If the Yankees were willing to give that same message to Derek Jeter two years ago, the Red Sox should be unafraid to do the same to Ortiz.
Ortiz simply isn’t valuable to any other team — not to the tune of $14 million or more. At best, it would appear safe to assume he could find an equal offer elsewhere, but to think any team would offer Ortiz more than the $14.575 million he made last year would indicate he’s either out of his mind or completely fed up with dealing with the Red Sox.
So what is David Ortiz really worth? Well, it depends who you ask. Regardless, no other team will offer Ortiz a better contract or a better situation for the next year or two, and even Ortiz must know that. Whether Ortiz’s eventual deal gets done next week or next February, there should be little doubt it will be with the Red Sox.