BOSTON — David Ortiz’s contract extension sure looks good right about now.
The Red Sox will enter this offseason with an extensive checklist that includes building a more consistent and dynamic offense. Fortunately for Boston, by virtue of extending Ortiz through at least 2015 back in March, the club doesn’t also need to worry about securing the services of its most productive hitter.
Ortiz’s contract situation — like Jon Lester’s — was a hot topic in spring training. But unlike with Lester, whose situation was more complicated for several reasons, including the fact that he’s eight years younger than Papi, the Red Sox were able to complete a deal that almost guarantees Ortiz will finish his career in Boston. Ortiz, who is under contract for $15 million this season, will earn $16 million in 2015. A pair of options for 2016 and 2017 could net Ortiz as much as $32 million over those two seasons. (Details here.)
While Ortiz was very productive in 2013, hitting .309 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs in 137 regular-season games before tearing apart the competition in October, there was a common belief the Red Sox were paying for past accomplishments as much as they were future stability. After all, Ortiz is a 38-year-old designated hitter who missed the tail end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 because of an Achilles injury. There inherently was some risk involved with tossing a substantial amount of cash in his direction, even though the nature of his contract options beyond 2015 safeguard the Red Sox against any potential drop-off.
Ortiz has since silenced the skeptics with a season that’s even more impressive when one considers the Red Sox’s futility as a team. Ortiz, the major league leader in RBIs (93), has driven in 19.3 percent of Boston’s total runs (483). That means, according to Elias, Ortiz could become the second major leaguer ever to lead his league in RBIs while playing for a team that finished last in runs scored — Wally Berger accomplished the feat in 1935.
“He’s having a landmark year,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park.
“Every day before BP when you watch him work out in here, there’s a reason he’s able to maintain some level of durability. He works his tail off,” Farrell added. “He does have the benefit of not having the wear and tear defensively — if we were in the National League, we’d be talking about a completely different animal here. But the fact is he’s able to benefit from being on one side of the game.”
The 2014 season has slipped away from the Red Sox, who entered Thursday a season-high-tying 14 games under .500 (56-70) and a season-high 17 1/2 games back in the American League East. But Ortiz keeps heating up, reaching base four times in three straight games — the first Red Sox player to do so since Johnny Damon in 2002 — to raise his average from .250 to .263 and his on-base percentage from .341 to .355.
“Like I always say, you’re going to get hot, you’re going to get cold. When you get hot, you go for it. When you get cold, you try to figure it out,” Ortiz said Thursday. “It’s part of the game, man. It’s like when you go 0-for-25, it happens so quick, man. Now, when I see pitches, I’m going to go for it, because that’s the way you guys know that I am.
“Not only do you face situations where they get tough on you, but whenever you can get tough on them, you’ve got to go for it. It goes back and forth. It’s been a tough year. Offensively, we’ve been a little behind, but hopefully it gets better.”
Ortiz, who launched his 30th home run Wednesday, now is tied with Ted Williams for the most 30-homer seasons in Red Sox history (eight). It’s a record Ortiz could break in 2015, as he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Ortiz landed himself a new contract last offseason. But he’s certainly not resting on his laurels.