As many expected, the Boston Red started their offseason quite predictably by signing David Ortiz to a new deal, inking him at 2 years, $26 million. Considering the fact that Big Papi has an affinity for drama that may rival many high school students, the fact that the process of signing him went smoothly is nothing short of a miracle. The Boston Globe reported last week that the deal was nearing completion, and not a moment too soon, considering the Texas Rangers reportedly showed interest, as well as other teams in need of a DH. In the end, the Sox got an aging hitter who seems to be defying Father Time every year. The question remains though: is this a good signing? Let’s take a look at both perspectives.
Yes: David Ortiz was a cornerstone in the Sox’ lineup last year; before his injury he hit .318 with a .415 OBP. He also mashed 23 home runs and collected 60 RBIs in 90 games. Had he kept that pace and played all 162 games, he would have hit 41 homers and driven in 108 runs. That’s not just good, that’s downright scary, especially at such an advanced age. (Barry Bonds, anyone?) Indeed, it seems that Big Papi has turned back the clock and returned to his 2004-2007 form, and it could not be a better time for him to set an example of dedication and perseverance to a faltering Sox squad.
If that is not enough incentive to keep Ortiz around, how about the fact that after he went to the DL for good, the Sox went 16-42? 16-42! That’s good for a .276 winning percentage; after Papi went down the Sox went from being a team in contention for the 2nd Wild Card spot to a team you wished would quit playing baseball. Ortiz was, without a doubt, a crucial piece of the Sox lineup and his absence was sorely missed. The DH’s who would go on to spell him did a miserable job filling his shoes, and if anything, his value is at an all-time high.
No: Let’s face it: Ortiz had a good season last year, but he benefited a great deal from the fact that he only played through half of it. Yes, Papi had a .318 average, but can he really be expected to maintain that through the entire 2013 season, let alone past that? Breaking his season down by the month, he hit .405 in April, which set him ahead in terms of his overall statistics, and then had two sub-par stretches in May and June which brought him back down to earth. What if Ortiz starts off the 2013 season with his usual April slump? Can he end the season over .300, then? Added to that, Ortiz is well past his prime, and even if he has been playing tricks with time lately, there’s no doubt it’s going to catch up with him eventually.
At the age of 36, he just signed a 2 year deal which will keep him in Boston until he is 38. He has had a history of injuries in the past, and his latest malaise with his Achilles tendon is nothing new. Can Ortiz make it through the season, or will we end up shoving Salty or Lavarnway into the DH spot to pick up the slack? I’m a fan of Big Papi all the way and what he’s done throughout his career for the organization, but Theo Epstein made a huge mistake in signing Mike Lowell after the ’07 World Series for sentimental reasons—is Cherington doing the same here?
Putting the pros and cons together, I think that bringing Papi back was a good signing. He lost weight and kept himself in great shape throughout the season and showed a lot of heart. While many of the Sox players were only looking for their next big contract, Ortiz was busting his butt every game to win it. He was a force in the lineup, and frankly there aren’t many other DH’s as good as he is on the market right now. In two years the Sox will have a tough decision to make, if at all, but depending on how Papi performs, that decision may become easier as the clock inevitably ticks towards the end of his baseball career.
Now that they got the first big deal out of the way, Ben Cherington has to buckle down and do some serious work for the Sox from a rebuilding standpoint. They need pitching, specifically a front-line starter. If they hope to make a serious playoff push in 2013, or beyond, the Sox need to add an ace to their staff, otherwise they’ll be stuck in the cellar of the AL East for a long time.
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