Arguably the best designated hitter since the role was installed in 1973, David Ortiz is also often a lightning rod for debate when he delivers an interview to the media. Ever eager to gain security, even at the age of 38, the slugger who has belted 431 home runs over 17 Major League seasons sparked more discussion last Sunday when he told a Boston TV station that he wants a contract extension beyond his current deal, which is set to expire of the 2014 season.
“It’s been a hell of a ride as long as I’ve been here. But like I always keep on telling people, this is business. Sometimes you’ve got to do what is best for you and your family,” Ortiz told WBZ-TV. “As long as they keep offering me a job and I keep on doing what I’m supposed to do and the relationship keeps on building up, I’m going to be there. Hopefully I won’t have to go and wear another uniform.
“If I have to, I’ve got no choice,” Ortiz added. “I’m not going to quit. As long as I keep on hitting the ball the way I have, I’m going to keep on giving it a try.”
On the blogosphere, across social media and in the traditional media, Ortiz’s comments created a firestorm of discussion which ranged from fans and columnists encouraging the Red Sox to give the man affectionately known as “Big Papi” in New England what he wants to those who admonished him for being classless and selfish.
On Thursday, Ortiz clarified and even softened his stance, telling WEEI.com “We’re good. We’re good. We talked, they’re talking and I just asked for one year. I didn’t ask for anything crazy. It wasn’t like I asked for a five-year deal. It’s a one-year extension I asked for.
“I’ve got a contract for this year. I was asking for a one-year extension for next year. I think, like I say, I think we had a great season last year and I’m walking into free agency after this season. We had a conversation, they’re outlining what they plan on doing and they’re going to come back to me with their answer at some point,” Ortiz added. “Everything is going well. We had a great conversation. They are happy about what we talked about. I don’t even know why people are spreading bad rumors.”
In the same interview, Ortiz admitted that he does not know how much longer he will keep playing, and that he will let health and production dictate his remaining tenure.
Last season, Ortiz was an integral part of a Red Sox team that captured its third World Series title since 2004. Recovering from an Achilles injury that shortened his 2012 campaign, he batted .309 with 30 home runs and 103 RBI with a .564 slugging percentage and a .959 OPS. He is under contract for 2014 at $15 million.
Since the Red Sox have practiced a more conservative fiscal approach in terms of avoiding long-term deals under general manager Ben Cherington, chances are they will not be willing to offer Ortiz more than a one-year extension considering that he will turn 39 on November 15.
If Ortiz remains healthy, he is likely to receive the extension he desires because his production is dramatically better than any other DH in the game. The Red Sox re-signed Mike Napoli to a two-year contract earlier in the offseason, and he could slide into the DH spot in 2015, but the Red Sox are in prime position to give Ortiz a palatable offer since the club has payroll flexibility and is not tied into cumbersome long-term deals.