Tuesday, March 25, 2014

David Ortiz Is Back In The Fold

Some dashingly handsome and clever blogger wrote about Ortiz's contract issues back in January. Said blogger was yours truly. At the time, I thought that no team would pay Ortiz over $15M a year to DH at age 38. My guess was that he would sign a two-year extension between $12-$15M:

So should Boston resign Ortiz to a multi-year deal? Yes. Will Boston resign Ortiz to a multi-year deal? Yes. But both Ortiz and the Sox will do their little dance before they get to where we all know they're going. My guess? Another two year deal between $12M-15M a year that brings him to age 40 in his last season. That would give him 20 years in the big leagues, the time to rack up over 1500 RBI and an outside shot at 500 HR and 2500 hits.

My guess wasn't too far off. He actually got $16M for 2015, which I will admit is a little surprising. That is a lot of money to invest in a 39-year-old DH. But with the intelligent management of Boston's finances by Cherington and company, it's doable. And it isn't a huge increase in the bottom line year-over-year.

It's the rest of the contract that is interesting. He actually gets two more years after 2015, but they are club option years that are built in a very clever fashion.

The new deal also created a structure designed to keep Ortiz in a Sox uniform for an additional two years, through the 2017 season. The deal calls for a club option for a $10 million base in 2016 that has escalating clauses that will automatically vest if Ortiz reaches a certain number of plate appearances.

So, for example, if Ortiz has a minimum of 475 plate appearances he'll make $12M that year. If he gets to 550, he'll make $14M. 600 plate appearances and over will net him $16M in 2016.

It's actually very clever, basing it on plate appearances. It rewards being on the field, but is also not tied to production directly. It is a reward for service that is also team-friendly. For those of you who are curious, Ortiz has made 600 or more plate appearances in eight of his last ten seasons. So $16M is a very achievable level for him to reach in 2016.

The 2017 option has a similar structure but there is no automatic vesting. So while plate appearances will determine salary, the club can choose to bring Ortiz back at that number or not. Again, a smart deal that places more emphasis on performance since Ortiz will 41 in 2017. That will be a tough call to make for the team.

This is a fair deal for both sides, one that rewards what Ortiz has done in Boston without being onerous to the team's financials. And it also encourages him to continue to play at a high level and stay in shape.

And, like I said in January, it gives Ortiz an outside shot at reaching 500+ HR, 1500+ RBI and 2500+ hits for his career. And then you have to start talking about Cooperstown.

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