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When the Boston Red Sox signed slugger David Ortiz to a two-year deal for $26 million, a gentle quiver traveled across Red Sox Nation. Of course, the return of the lone familiar face from the 2004 World Series championship team is a good thing–Ortiz is the most dangerous offensive threat the Sox have these days. But a two-year contract that gives him $11 million in 2014 when he’ll enter the year at age 38? That’s serious cause for concern, and our confidence in Ortiz’s ability to contribute to Boston’s lineup was shaken on Sunday with the news that he’ll be shut down for about a week due to a sore left heel.
Ortiz’s 2012 season was cut short due to an Achilles’ heel problem, and all the promise of what 2013 could bring is beginning to look like a path Sox fans know all too well, as it has been suspected he may start the year on the disabled list. The loss of Ortiz could be devastating, as he’s been the most consistent hitter for the Sox in each of the last few years, even overcoming his weakness to left-handed pitching by hitting .320 off of them last year.
2012 may have ended prematurely for Ortiz, but he still put up great numbers. In 90 games (his lowest total since 2001), Ortiz hit .318/.415/.611 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI. His value is irreplaceable, especially after the team traded away the potent Adrian Gonzalez. Though the Sox have assembled a great lineup of secondary players via free agency this offseason, no one can match Ortiz’s threat for offensive power.
That certainly doesn’t mean this team can’t win without him — in the end Boston’s success will be defined by their pitching — but if Ortiz continues to battle this heel problem going forward, it’s going to affect the way they approach the 2014 season as well. Unlike Mike Napoli, whose hip condition voided a three-year deal, the Sox are invested in Ortiz next season too, and as his production deteriorates, the deal looks worse and worse for Boston.
Signing Ortiz was a necessary move by the Red Sox. But after years of negotiations ended in relatively safe one-year deals, Ortiz getting his two-year contract could be the first mistake by the organization since before they shipped the cancerous clubhouse to Los Angeles.
Let’s hope Ortiz proves everyone wrong, and let’s his bat do the talking this season.