A Boston Red Sox tradition might have ended Sunday — and not a moment too soon.
David Ortiz on Sunday signed a one-year contract extension with the Red Sox that also includes a club/vesting option for 2016 and a club option for 2017. The deal, a necessary move by the Red Sox for several reasons, likely will keep Ortiz in Boston for the rest of his career while also eliminating the headaches that come with resolving the slugger’s annual contract impasses.
Ortiz, who has re-upped six times since signing as a free agent before the 2003 season, is no stranger to being vocal about his contract. That has created an annual event throughout Boston in which Ortiz’s agent, Fern Cuza, is as synonymous with February and March as Punxsutawney Phil, Cupid and whatever generic leprechaun you want to toss out there.
In some ways, it’s understandable for Ortiz to worry about his contract. Ortiz, in the grand scheme of things, has been underpaid compared to Major League Baseball’s other premier power hitters, and he’s not getting any younger. Who could blame a guy for wanting some financial security as he approaches the end of his career?
Yet in other ways, the annual contract talks have been a nuisance, often serving as a distraction at a time when Ortiz still is under contract for the upcoming season. Surely, you could call any local radio station, complain about Ortiz’s complaints and not hear any complaints about you complaining about his complaints. (Yeah, that’s how head-spinning things can get.)
But for all the agonizing about Ortiz’s future, both he and the Red Sox wanted nothing more than to continue baseball’s most productive relationship — all things considered — under fair contractual terms. The parties finally agreed to those terms Sunday, meaning the book, in all likelihood, officially is closed on the annual Ortiz contract hoopla.
The book on Ortiz’s career, however, still is wide open, which ultimately trumps everything when explaining the logic behind the Red Sox giving at least one more guaranteed year to a 38-year-old DH. One can argue whether Ortiz actually would have considered signing elsewhere or whether the newfound peace of mind will benefit both the player and the team, but one doesn’t have a leg to stand on when questioning Ortiz’s overall impact on the Red Sox’s lineup.
Ortiz isn’t just a three-time World Series champion being handed a new deal based on previous accomplishments. He’s coming off a season in which he hit .309 with 30 homers, 103 RBIs and a .949 OPS before bringing his game to another level in the playoffs. While owner John Henry’s comments Sunday suggest Ortiz’s longstanding relationship with the city of Boston was a factor in negotiations, the Red Sox also made an excellent business decision by locking up one of baseball’s most productive power hitters.
No one in Boston is going to miss the annual Big Papi contract sagas. But nearly everyone, especially the Red Sox, would have missed the longtime face of the franchise if he bolted after 2014.