Last offseason David Ortiz was visibly upset about the nature of his contract negotiations with the Red Sox. His asking price, a two-year contract at the same pay that he was currently making, was apparently more than the Red Sox were willing to pay. The two sides eventually settled on a one-year contract worth $14.57 million. Ortiz called the negotiations both embarrassing and humiliating. The 2012 season gave Ortiz the chance to prove that he was worth the two year contract that he felt he deserved, and that is exactly what he did. Ortiz triple slashed .318/.415/.611, good for a four digit OPS. His 169 wRC+ was first among designated hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. This led to a three-win season despite being limited to only 383 plate appearances due to an Achilles injury.
The Red Sox responded to this showing by doing what they should have done a year ago, sign Ortiz to a two-year deal. The contract, worth $26 million over those two years, looks like a good deal for both sides. Ortiz got the job security he wanted, and the Red Sox retained their best offensive player for a below-market-level price. At $13 million a season, assuming teams will continue to pay about $5-6 million per win this offseason, Ortiz is being paid like a 2.5 win player. In the last three seasons, he has averaged around 3.2 WAR, and that includes last season in which he lost a significant amount of time to injury, so there should be some surplus value in this contract for the Sox.
Some may point to Ortiz’s age –he will turn 37 later this month– and his recent injury history to suggest that this was a risky signing for a team in such a state of flux. While the risk of injury will always be a factor when evaluating contracts, Ortiz has registered over 600 plate appearances in three of his last four seasons; so as long as there are no lasting issues with the Achilles injury, Ortiz should come with no more injury risk than the average player, perhaps even less considering he never plays in the field. As far as aging is concerned, he has actually improved his wRC+ in each of the last three seasons. Part of this can be attributed to his decreasing strike out rate. His K% dropped from 23.9% to 13.7% in 2011, and to 13.3% in 2012. It is often the case that when a player’s K% goes down, his power numbers also drop. Ortiz, however, has put up ISO rates of .246 and .293 in his last two seasons. He may be getting old, but his stats aren’t showing it.
There were legitimate questions coming into the offseason regarding whether Ortiz would be in a Red Sox uniform next year. He seemed unhappy with their handling of his contract last offseason, and let’s not forget, the Red Sox were awful in 2012. But it was clear that Ortiz wanted to remain in Boston, and the Red Sox didn’t want to lose a franchise icon following such a disappointing season. In the end, the two sides agreed on a mutually beneficial contract that will see Ortiz play at least two more seasons in Fenway Park. It would’ve been unfortunate had it ended up any other way.