McDonald: Red Sox To "Step Up" David Ortiz Contract Talks

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David Ortiz is set to be a free agent this off-season, but the Red Sox want to bring him back.

David Ortiz was having an incredible season before an Achilles injury derailed that train. The Red Sox, in the hopes of recapturing some of that in next year's lineup, want Ortiz back once again, as he has been every year since 2003. They plan to start that sooner than later, too, according to ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald:

After the Boston Red Sox concluded their dismal 93-loss season, general manager Ben Cherington said re-signing David Ortiz would be a priority in the offseason. While the sides have had informal talks, serious conversations with the free-agent designated hitter will begin at "some point next week," according to a team source.

Ortiz hit .318/.415/.611, and was leading the American League in OPS and slugging until he no longer qualified. He didn't qualify because he played in just 93 games, and only one of those after the initial Achilles injury. That's a point in Ortiz's favor, and a point against him as well, but with all of the new financial flexibility the Red Sox have at their disposal, bringing him back for a year won't be prohibitive. As we covered before the season ended, even two years wouldn't be problematic:

Ortiz was excellent in 2011. His April was the best it had been since he was still in his early 30s, and he finished the year at .309/.398/.554, good for one of the all-time great DH seasons from a 35-year-old. The thing is, none of those other mid-30s designated hitters were awarded deals of significant length after their contracts ended, and the Red Sox weren't about to make Ortiz the first. With less room in the budget heading into 2012 than in 2011, Ortiz received a raise by avoiding arbitration, but didn't get the extra year he publicly craved.

Boston's in a different situation now, though. A quarter-of-a-billion in future contracts has been dealt away for prospects and depth, and all of a sudden, the team is in no danger of approaching the luxury tax threshold. There's still a huge risk in signing Ortiz to more than a one-year deal, but the team now has the financial capability to swallow that risk should he miss a season, or most of one, in the second year of a deal. (Or, perish the thought, Ortiz finally declines like a hitter his age tends to do.)

If he misses another year with something like this Achilles injury, Boston will have the money around to find another hitter for the middle of their lineup -- to pull a random example out, say Ortiz goes down in early 2014. The Cubs will have the last year of Alfonso Soriano's deal then, and while he's no Ortiz, a few months of him for nothing but money could help the Sox and Cubs out.

It's unknown if the Sox are amicable to a two-year deal, but as said, they have the room to get it done now, whereas before, it was too much guaranteed money to put on a risk, given the lack of room around the luxury tax. We'll know soon enough, though, as Boston wants to get Ortiz locked up sooner than later, and get on with bringing in new players and a manager.

McDonald also mentions that outfielder Cody Ross is still in talks with the Red Sox about a new contract, a process that began at least a few weeks ago.

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