Before we get to the free agents of this offseason, let's take a moment to review one of the free agents of last offseason. He's actually been one of the free agents in each of the last two offseasons. That would be David Ortiz, who morphed into Barry Bonds on the eve of the World Series. He's the toast of Boston, he is. There are people all over New England who would have sold their children to an alligator-man for one Red Sox championship just 10 years ago. Ortiz brought them three.
It's worth remembering, though, that this idea of Ortiz as an infallible, unpitchable monster has been revived. For a stretch, he wasn't quite this feared. He had a down 2009 and started 2010 even worse, hitting .143/.238/.286 in April. Here's Ortiz in a piece about a player struggling with baseball mortality:
Do you understand that this is killing me? Do you know when I'm going good I cannot sleep because I'm trying to remember everything that I did right so I can repeat it the next day and the next? And that's when I'm going good. When I'm going bad, it's even worse because everybody looks to me to be the guy who comes through for this ballclub. It's like I never sleep anymore.
The Onion piled on, which, well, I never …
According to official MLB statistics available as of press time, struggling Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is hitting only .200 and has tallied a paltry four home runs and 11 RBIs thus far in 2010. Sources close to the team noted that, just FYI, Ortiz is being paid $13 million per year to do nothing but hit.
Then Ortiz starting hitting. And he kept hitting through 2011, but draft-pick compensation dragged his value down. He ended up accepting arbitration with the Red Sox, which was something of a surprise. How did he enjoy that process?
"It was humiliating. There's no reason a guy like me should go through that," he said. "All I was looking for was two years, at the same salary ($12.5 million).
"They ended up giving me $3 million more than that (actually $2.025 million), and look at my numbers this year. Tell me if they wouldn't have been better off.
"And yet they don't hesitate to sign other guys. It was embarrassing."
Oh. And when the Red Sox were circling the toilet and jettisoning contracts in 2012, Ortiz wasn't exactly thrilled with the State of the Red Sox:
"It's becoming the [expletive] it used to be," he said. "Look around, bro. Look around. Playing here used to be so much fun. Now, every day is something new, not related to baseball."
The season ended with Bobby Valentine questioning Ortiz's drive and commitment, because of course it did.
The Red Sox, to their credit, obviously picked their sides correctly, signing Ortiz to a two-year, $26 million deal a week after the World Series ended. Then they sent Bobby Valentine to live on a farm with a huge field where he could run around and play with other buffoons all day and doesn't that sound just perfect?
But that's one of the funny things about Ortiz -- he's never had that contract. He's never got the huge payday. He was under team control from 1997 to 2004, settling before going to arbitration each year. He signed a two-year deal before 2005, and a four-year, $52 million deal before the 2007 season with a $12.5 million option for 2011. Those aren't small amounts, don't get me wrong. They're, like, at least twice what I make. But when you're talking about a nine-time All Star, a guy who finished in the top five of AL MVP voting in five consecutive years, and a potential Hall of Famer, usually you'll see one of those seven-, eight-, or nine-year deals for many many millions.
Put this way: Next year will be Ortiz's 18th season, and his career earnings will just approach Jayson Werth's current contract.
Again, you're not weeping for him. It's just curious, is all. Ortiz has never hit the open market at the exact right time. He's not going to this year, either.
That's where we come in. Usually when we look at the revisionist history of baseball contracts, we're looking at the bad ones. CC Sabathia, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols have been the targets so far. All of them have regrettable contracts.
Ortiz is different. The Red Sox are thrilled to have him for $15 million next year. It's the perfect contract for someone of Ortiz's age and ability from a team's perspective. But what if he were a free agent today?
First note: He'd get hosed because all DHs get hosed on the open market. There just aren't enough open spots. Both the Indians, White Sox, and Royals wouldn't be in the business of getting another DH. Then figure the Rays and Astros wouldn't get in the bidding war. You're down to just 10 teams.
Still, a couple of them would go absolutely goofy for Ortiz. Think about the win-now Rangers. They want lineup help, but they aren't going to want to hand out a Werth-like contract for the premium hitters. That's why it made sense for the Rangers to be hot and heavy last year. The interest would drive his price up with the Red Sox, too. In an offseason market bereft of power, Ortiz would be coveted.
I'll guess the extra leverage of David Ortiz, Boston God and Unstoppable 2013 World Series MVP, would have gotten him the third year, and it would have come at superstar money. Give me three years, $52 million as my answer for what Ortiz would get today. That hypothetical contract is a lot more than what Boston is actually paying him, but that's nothing new.