One month ago, Boston Red Sox slugging DH David Oritz made it as clear as he could: he wants a one-year extension. That request will soon come to fruition. According to Red Sox beat writer Joey Nowak of MLB.com, Ortiz and the club are “close to finalizing” an extension that would pay “Big Papi” the same amount of $15 million next year that he will make this year. Nowak cites Ortiz as saying that the deal is going well, and Ortiz says he is “not worried” about its pending completion.
The news about the contract comes as no surprise to any Red Sox fan or baseball fan in general. The surprise to me, though, comes in the form of a Boston.com writer who questions the necessity of the extension. Chad Finn asked the question in his March 21 article titled “A One-Year Extension for David Ortiz Will be a Nice Gesture, but Is It Necessary Now?”
The middle of the title alone caught my attention. Finn called the extension “a nice gesture.” Giving fans free tickets to a game is a nice gesture. Buying a friend a hot dog and a drink is a nice gesture. Giving a caught foul ball to a kid is a nice gesture. Paying (arguably) the best designated hitter (we can argue for Edgar Martinez) since the position’s inception 41 years ago $15 million for one year is not a “nice gesture”; it is a great baseball decision.
Finn does a fine job of chronicling Ortiz’s Red Sox career. Red Sox fans know the numbers very well. The slugger has shown no signs of slowing down even at age 38. I fully understand not giving him a long-term deal, but this extension guarantees that general manager Ben Cherington will not have to deal with losing his best power man and run producer to free agency. I doubt Ortiz would look elsewhere anyway, but now he definitely will not. Cherington can now use that time to find other ways to keep his team competitive for many more years.
I do agree that the day will come when Big Papi will begin his natural decline. That day, though, will most likely not happen this year, and although possible, it will likely not happen next year barring any unforeseen injury. Playing most of his games as the designated hitter will allow Ortiz to maintain his stamina and keep his injury risk much lower. Both sides, once they finalize this extension, should play out the two-year contract and see what happens as Ortiz turns 40 after the 2015 season. That would be another “nice gesture.”