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On Thursday, the Red Sox exercised the $12.5 million club option to retain David Ortiz for the 2011 season. With this signing, the team ensured that David Ortiz would not become a free agent for the first time since 2003. Ever since the discussions of Ortiz’ future began, it was known that Ortiz wanted more long-term security, in the event of another slump like the kind that started the last two seasons for Papi. However, such an agreement could not be reached, and the Sox will give themselves another year to reach an agreement.
“Well, first of all, we’re very happy to get this resolved today in a manner that was ultimately acceptable to both parties,” [Theo] Epstein said. “That was important to us, to be honest with you. I don’t think we were that interested in picking up an option if it was going to be seen as burdensome to the player or unfair to the player.”
“That was a component of these talks, to make sure that ultimately David was content and comfortable playing on the option. Because if you’re going to pick up an option of this magnitude, you want to make sure it does work for both sides. He’s happy now. We made sure of that before we reached our final decision. Both sides are moving forward, committed to the 2011 Red Sox winning as many games as we possibly can.”
In addition to Ortiz, the club also picked up the option on pitcher Scott Atchison, and declined the options on Bill Hall and Felipe Lopez.
Overall, I would have rather seen the money put to other uses. Yes, Ortiz is a powerful hitter, and will have great moments, but the multiple bad starts worry me. Ortiz will be turning 35 in mere weeks, which makes him old for a player, Wakefield excluded. The odds of the slumps finally catching up to Ortiz for more than a month or two are tough to think about.
Now age isn’t everything. But if you’re going to spend money, why not go for someone who can offer you the potential of Papi, plus play defense? Signing Carlos Pena, Paul Konerko or Derrek Lee would still result in the same iffiness as Papi, but provide the same benefits, plus allow Youkilis to be moved to 3rd and avoid the multitude of errors Beltre had. Or the Sox might have been more likely to be able to sign someone like Carl Crawford, to help with their outfield woes. Or while we’re at it, maybe the Padres would listen to requests for Jacoby Ellsbury and a pitcher for Adrian Gonzalez. Crawford for (an injured) Ellsbury and Gonzalez for Beltre.
And if a pitcher was deleted from the roster, that would just provide more motivation to go after Cliff Lee, where the Yankees are the only competition rich enough to make a viable option for Lee. I know a lot of money has been sunk into Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Lackey, and some into Wakefield, but that’s a sunk cost. And a low-cost option in Casey Kelly is always waiting in the wings. Bench pitchers who aren’t performing well, and maybe the presence of Cliff Lee would spark a friendly competition that would benefit the Red Sox rotation.
But it looks like Red Sox management disagrees with some of these points, and wants to retain many of its old players instead of revamping. And that’s fine; you never know what the future will hold. Just look at the “defense” and “pitching” that was the focus of the last off-season. Boston will still do well with Ortiz, and should do well in the division and Wild Card race with Tampa’s free agents likely to jump ship. And if Ortiz does well, it might open up trade possibilities to teams willing to give Papi a longer contract, and maybe result in key players acquisitions to fill the aforementioned needs.