SARASOTA, Fla. — With his contract extension officially announced Monday afternoon by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, David Ortiz said he was grateful to put the contract talk aside and concentrate on baseball.
“It’s great, man,” Ortiz said. “You guys know how personal I take my time in this organization. This organization has been great to me and my family. I’m always proud to wear this uniform and be part of this wonderful organization.
“I guess you guys get tired of me talking about contract all the time. At least I’m going to have some time off asking questions and dealing with a contract situation. I’m all about the business, just focusing on baseball. This is a big part of it.”
Ortiz, 38, got a one-year extension through 2015, with a vesting club option for 2016 and a club option for 2017. He will earn $16 million in 2015, and there are different levels for 2016 based on plate appearances. He makes $11 million for 425 plate appearances, $12 million for 475, $13 million for 525, $14 million for 550, $15 million for 575, and $16 million for 600.
The 2017 option would vest at whatever level Ortiz achieves in 2016.
Asked what makes him think he can play potentially four more years, Ortiz said, “Well, every year is different. Every year, mentally, you get prepared for what is coming up next. In my case, I love playing the game. I love being part of this organization.
“Just knowing that you’re going to finish your career here, with what I’ve already been for the past 11, 12 seasons, that’s something that’s a huge accomplishment.
“In my case, this is the place I want to be. Now knowing that as long as I’m healthy and as long as I’m good to go, I’m going to be playing, and it’s just less stress.”
Cherington emphasized that the Red Sox had to view Ortiz as more than just a 38-year-old DH. He remains the centerpiece of the lineup.
“In a lot of different ways, David is an outlier, an exception to the rule,” Cherington said. “There just aren’t many guys that produce at the level that he has to this point in their career. You can’t really look at it as you would normally. Even as it relates to a contract discussion, you have to look at it differently.
“What we do know is that we always go off what we’ve seen most recently, and what we’ve seen most recently is a guy in 2013, even putting playoffs aside, even in the regular season, he was one of the best hitters in the league.
“We don’t have any reason to believe that’s not going to continue for some period of time. David takes terrific care of himself. He cares. He’s got team goals. He’s got personal goals. There’s a lot of reasons for him to continue playing.
“We know, when he’s playing, he wants to be good. He’s got a lot of pride. There’s really no comparison to make, but we go off what we see now and most recently, and that’s a very good hitter and one who we continue to believe will continue to be a very good hitter for some period of time.”
Cherington said talks began very informally in the offseason. Before Christmas, the sides agreed that the serious stuff wouldn’t commence until spring training, though that didn’t stop Ortiz from making a contract-extension media tour.
Asked what the goals were in negotiations, Cherington said, “If we’re going to talk about this now, let’s see if we can find a way to craft something that’s fair to David and see if he can finish his career with Boston. I’m glad we were able to accomplish that.”
Asked if the team studied the production of other players older than 37, Cherington said, “We looked at it, but there was such a small sample, not sure what we can gain from it. We focused more on David and what we knew about him.
“Eventually, Father Time wins, but he can push that back as far as he can.
“I think you can’t apply a single policy to every player. We have David, who has meant so much for the team on and off the field, it goes beyond the typical player relationship. We owe him our time and our conversation. It doesn’t mean we’re always going to resolve or find agreement on something. He’s passed the typical player in the context of a player-contract negotiation.”
While the Red Sox, upon completing Ortiz’s last two-year extension, thought they had agreed not to start talks on another one until after this season, things changed once Ortiz compiled the fourth-highest OPS in baseball last season and then won World Series MVP honors.
“This was something important to David dating back to the offseason,” Cherington said. “So we said let’s have a conversation and craft what makes sense for him, for us to accomplish that goal.”
When news was broken to Ortiz that a deal was done, Cherington quipped, “There was some profanity.”