It’s never easy being The Team when your 38-year-old DH, your best hitter, your World Series MVP, pipes up about a new contract.
It’s not a good situation for the Red Sox to have this aired out in public or refute what David Ortiz has said. So the Red Sox take the high road and know, first and foremost, they want Ortiz to remain a Red Sox for the rest of his career.
The Red Sox and Ortiz will likely find common ground on a contract extension.
Ortiz told reporters at his charity golf tournament in the Dominican Republic last week that his representatives have reached out to the Red Sox about an extension. Team sources indicate there have been no talks yet. There may have been an introductory conversation between Ortiz’s agent, Fern Cuza and the team, but nothing formal.
The Red Sox have been under the impression that a new deal wouldn’t be discussed until after Ortiz’s contract is up after the 2014 season. But only the Red Sox seem to remember the conversation.
The Red Sox don’t want to get into a war of words with their star hitter. Things, of course, have changed since Ortiz’s two-year contract was signed in 2013.
Ortiz, who will earn $15 million this season (as part of a two-year, $30 million deal), got over his Achilles’ tendon problems from 2012 and had a great season in 2013. He earned a $50,000 bonus for making the All-Star team. Because he spent fewer than 21 days on the disabled list, his 2014 salary will go from $11 million to $15 million.
He also was named the World Series MVP.
You can’t blame him for trying to cash in. Any extension would likely mean a sizable raise that could push him closer to $20 million.
All of this likely will happen, but Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has a few other things to do before he can get to Ortiz, namely finish building his team for 2014.
Cherington got his utility infielder Wednesday when he traded seldom-used Franklin Morales and minor league reliever Chris Martin to the Colorado Rockies for infielder Jonathan Herrera, a switch-hitter who can play second, short, third, and in the outfield.
The Red Sox are exploring deals because they have an extra veteran starting pitcher to trade. They are also trying to add to their bullpen.
The team also has to decide on whether to engage in contract talks with Jon Lester, who is in his option season. Lester’s excellent postseason has put him in position to make big demands.
It will be interesting to see if Lester accepts a Dustin Pedroia-type hometown discount deal, or head into the market, like Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ortiz and the Red Sox will chat this winter, but it might not be as quickly as Ortiz wants.
The Red Sox’ offseason might be quiet at the moment, but that could change rapidly.
One move would be the re-signing of shortstop Stephen Drew, which would create a logjam at third base, where Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts would be competing for one spot.
Drew and the Red Sox have mutual interest in getting together again, but Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, envisions a multiyear contract opportunity for Drew, and not necessarily with Boston.
Another possible move is to deal a veteran starting pitcher, preferably Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster, who will earn $14.5 million and $13.25 million, respectively, in 2014. But the Sox are perfectly willing to enter spring training with both if they can’t get their price.
If Dempster, 36, does return, he will be well rested since he threw only 19⅔ innings in the final month of the season. Peavy, 32, who won 12 games and pitched 144⅔ innings between the White Sox and Red Sox, will also come back fresh.
About a half-dozen teams have made inquiries about the availability of Sox pitchers, something Cherington has acknowledged.
Cherington is often reminded of the Red Sox’ trade of Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena in 2006. The Red Sox were looking for a power hitter and Pena, who still makes his living hitting in Japan, was intriguing at the time. Then-Reds GM Wayne Krivsky was happy to hand Pena to the Red Sox for Arroyo, who wound up being a perennial 200-inning, 30-plus start performer.
The Red Sox seem to be more equipped to handle that now. They have Brandon Workman, Henry Owens, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and possibly Drake Britton waiting for spots in the rotation.
Cherington has not added depth from the outside because he believes he has it on the inside.
The starting pitching market is beginning to weed out.
Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Arroyo remain the top free agents. Tampa Bay’s David Price, 28, and the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija, 28, are top younger veterans their teams won’t be able to sign long term.
But even if those pitchers are signed or traded, there will be a demand for Boston’s veteran pitching.
John Lackey’s performance last season, a year removed after Tommy John surgery, and the structure of his contract (he will earn $15.25 million in 2014, then $500,000 on a team option in 2015) makes him an attractive alternative. Lackey will receive a $500,000 relocation bonus if he’s traded, so his total compensation would be $1 million in 2015 if he is traded.
The Red Sox don’t want to give up on Felix Doubront. They hope they can get him to the next level of offseason conditioning so he can become a 200-inning performer.
Ortiz will get his extension is due time. The Red Sox want to make sure more pressing business gets done first.