There is good reason why David Ortiz is seeking an extension. It isn't that he wants respect. It isn't that he couldn't imagine playing anywhere besides Boston. He is trying to minimize his risk. The same reason a young player like Paul Goldschmidt or Clayton Kershaw might sign an extension instead of hitting free agency sooner. They sell high coming off good season and attempt to convince their team paying them more money now will reduce the risk of losing them or spending more on the market. The player essentially accepts less money in order to minimize their risk of having less in the future due to decline/risk. If players had no risk, they would always go to FA because they will make the most on the open market due to bidding wars. This can go well(Think Longoria or Goldschmidt). It can go terribly wrong(Ryan Howard or A-Rod.) David Ortiz is not Paul Goldschmidt. He is not Clayton Kershaw. What he is a 39-year old full time DH. He isn't going to improve and provide more value in the future. There isn't much value to be earned. There is also substantial risk.
So I did a little examination of players that were bad glove 1B or full time DHs since the DH rule was introduced in 1973 that posted a 2.0+ WAR after their age 38 season. There were 5 results. I also took a look at what they did after their "good" season.
- 1992 Dave Winfield(Age 39)- 3.8 WAR Rest of Career: -.09 WAR
- 1996 Paul Moliter(Age 40) - 2.5 WAR Rest of Career: -.01 WAR
- 2003 Edgar Martinez(Age 40)- 2.9 WAR Rest of Career -.03 WAR
- 2007 Frank Thomas(Age 39)- 2.0 WAR Rest of Career: -.02 WAR
- 1977 Willie McCovey(Age 39) - 2.1 WAR Rest of Career: -.08 WAR
Notice something in common? Well first of all, with the exception of Edgar, they are all first ballot Hall of Famers. This make sense, because to be playing at age 39, you have to be pretty good. To be good, you have to stay healthy too. But notice something else? None of them did anything of positive value after their age 40 season. Most continued to play replacement level baseball and missing time with injuries until retiring while costing their team money. It is really hard to be good in your late 30's. It is impossible to be a good hitter in your 40's,especially when you don't bring anything to the table defensively.(Pitchers are weird....Randy Johnson had a 9.5 WAR season at age 41). At this age, decline is really gradual. It is hard and fast. None of these players went out and had a decent season the year after. They were awful. Ortiz could even call up his bud Alex Rodriguez to learn this. During his age 35 season when he hit 30 HR, we all knew his contract was bad, but we didn't realize how quickly the mighty fall until an injury filled 2011, a bad 2012, and an injured 2013. If Frank Thomas wasn't the exception to this rule, I'm not convinced Ortiz is. A David Ortiz extension could get vary ugly very quickly if history teaches us anything.
There is a reason most teams don't full time DH: Because it gives them a flex spot. Give a guy a day off. Ease an injured guy back into the lineup. Plug your aging first basemen into it for a year. Platoon batters there. Hypothetically: Imagine in 2015, Mike Napoli's hip starts to act up. You'd like to plug him in a DH, but a the shell of David Ortiz is occupying it. Without Ortiz, the solution is simple. You have Napoli DH,slide Middlebrooks to 3rd, and put rising star and OBP machine Garin Cecchini to play the hot corner. If Ortiz isn't good. You have to A) Lose out on a better situation B) Bench Ortiz causing him to whine and fans to be upset.
I'd offer Ortiz a pretty standard offer in the league for an old player. A 2015 contract based on a vesting option or an incentive based contract around $10M, which seems fair. If he doesn't like it, slap a QO on the table. I think an assumption of 3 WAR in 2014 and 2 WAR in 2015 is fair, even a bit optimistic. And the $30M for the current contract and the QO similar to the money Ortiz would get in FA since the market for an aging full time DH is slim. You'd be limited to big market AL teams. The Yankess have Beltran. Fielder should be DHing in Texas by then. The Angels have Pujols/Hamilton/ and no money. The White Sox should be paranoid from the decline of Konerko/Dunn and are rebuilding. The Tigers will have to be worrying about extending Miguel Cabrera. I'll admit it, the Mariners are threat. We all know Jack-Z gets a funny feeling in his pants from aging DHs with power. Ortiz would probably go there and play the outfield. No many destination. But the market is very hesitant on "risky" players too. Cory Hart only got a 1Y/$8M despite being a power bat that missed 2013 due to injury. Granderson got a little for a massive power guy that can field because he missed time to a freak injury. Bartolo Colon pitched like an ace for 2 years and only got $20M because people are just baffled. Even a solid back end guy like Capuano got $21M less than Arroyo because he has some risk. It is also worth noting the draft pick hurts value substantially as we can see from Drew,a top SS in 2013, yet can't find a home. Nelson Cruz got only $8M partially due to the pick(part because he is bad) . If Ortiz goes on the DL once in 2014,which is very likely, teams will be very hesitant to bite.
If a vesting/incentives based deal or a QO isn't enough respect for a Ortiz, then we can take a draft pick and respect him like we did Nomar. Like we did with Manny. Like we did with Pedro. Like we did with Youk and Beckett. We moved on. And the funny thing is, I don't think any of us regret moving on. We got the best of them and are left with fond memories. We aren't left with spite. We aren't left with memories of sad decline. Ortiz has been a great player, but at the end of the day baseball is a business, in which you need to make tough decisions in order to try to be efficient and win. I know it isn't ideal. We'd all over to see Ortiz do what Rivera did last year, dominate, and walk off into the sunset. But we should only take the risk it is at the right price. Because otherwise, you'd probably see a husk of Ortiz coming up to bat in 2015 and you don't want it to make you sad. You don't want feel like Phillies fans feelabout Ryan Howard. You want to remember the World Series he brought here. And I think that is best done by making a reasonable deal or moving on. Not buy paying for the past.