Much like his former teammate Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz wants the Red Sox to dominate free agency this offseason.
Ortiz, who held his annual “Weekend with Papi” Celebrity Golf Classic at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida, had some thoughts about the Red Sox during a phone conversation Friday afternoon.
Major League Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings began Monday morning, and the Sox have a heavy front-office presence in Nashville. The Winter Meetings, as Ortiz noted, have been a place where huge deals have been made in recent years, including the $360 million mega-deal that kept the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in pinstripes.
New Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow has indicated that the team is ready to spend while also maintaining the mission of building out a sustainable roster. Ortiz believes that Breslow, a former teammate, was a good choice for the job.
“He has something under his belt that not many other GMs have, and that’s experience of being in the clubhouse,” said Ortiz. “Especially in those winning years that we had over there.
“Breslow is a smart guy. He is already making a move walking away from that much analytics that we have. He’s basically avoiding some of it.”
Perhaps some of it. But analytics remain at the forefront of baseball, and Breslow called himself a nerd during his introductory press conference in November. He won’t deviate from his convictions, whichare rooted, in part, in analytics.
The Sox need starting pitching, and names such as Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell have been linked to Boston. Names like that intrigue Ortiz, but he knows they come with a price.
“Nobody plays for free,” Ortiz said. “I mean, the guys now know what they are looking for. When you talk about any free agent right now, you are talking about big dollars.
“The Cy Young Award winner [Snell], that guy is getting paid. You talk about a guy like Shohei [Ohtani], you know that guy is getting paid. And as I continue mentioning that, I mean, it’s all about the big money.
“Hopefully, that’s the case for us, the Red Sox organization. I’m not saying that they’re going to go out there and hunt the most expensive player. But I’m pretty sure they’re going to want to make some more to get us in better shape so we can start winning games, for sure.”
During spring training last season, Ortiz mentioned that Rafael Devers had to take more of a step toward the spotlight, considering his contract extension worth more than $300 million.
But that might not be Devers’s calling, considering his reserved public persona. Or, at the very least, it’s still a work in progress.
“The one thing that you guys need to know is that everybody has different personalities,” said Ortiz. “He’s shy. He’s still learning. He’s still working on getting better with the language. That’s something that we all struggle with. And his personality is the type of personality that he is just a quiet kid. He just doesn’t say much.”
In what was considered a “down season,” Devers still took home a Silver Slugger Award at third base after hitting .271/.351/.500 with an .851 OPS, 33 homers, and 100 RBIs. Ortiz believes that Devers didn’t have enough help around him in 2023, and that should be a point of emphasis for the club.
“Like I said last year before the season, he needs some protection,” Ortiz said. “I think his numbers were incredible this year without any protection. I mean, why would you pitch to him if he doesn’t have any protection?
“He’s aggressive. When he goes to the plate, he doesn’t go to [expletive] around. As a pitcher, why would you pitch to him?”
Ortiz’s event raised $1.4 million (and counting) this year for the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which provides life-saving heart surgeries and care in his native Dominican Republic as well as New England.
Former Red Sox players Johnny Damon and Clay Buchholz, as well as fellow Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Barry Larkin, were among those who attended.
“We had a lot of people working, dedicating their time, and I can’t thank them enough,” said Ortiz.