If you want the short version of the question posed in the headline, the answer is, "Very likely." But if you've listened to our podcast the past few weeks, as we answered some of the questions brought about by the 2011 season, you would already know I was going to say that. The reason this is a question, though, is due to two things: Ortiz is a free agent for the first time since he came to Boston all the way back in 2003, on a $1.25 million deal that didn't even guarantee him a job -- remember Jeremy Giambi? -- after being cut by the Twins, whose organizational philosophy at the time only involved mediocre hitters who could slap the ball. The second item is that Ortiz is on the record as being tired of the "drama" surrounding the 2011 Red Sox. Given his comments yesterday, though, when given a chance to clear the air after receiving the Roberto Clemente award, he admitted just being as frustrated as the rest of us at the situation, but willing to see 2012 through just like us, too.
The thing with Ortiz and free agency is that he's something of a rare commodity at designated hitter. There are teams who don't employ a day-to-day DH for a reason, as they want to rotate the position among some of their more defensively-challenged players, or want to give some of their oft-injured or older hitters the occasional day off. The Yankees seem to be moving towards this model, a shift that makes sense given how Alex Rodriguez's body has treated him over the last few seasons. Even if they don't do that, the arrival of Jesus Montero, who has more questions about his ability to stick behind the plate than Ryan Lavarnway does, might block up the DH spot with someone plenty productive -- and far less expensive than Ortiz. The Blue Jays also have the funds, but maybe not the space, as they are a team with a few potential DHs already on the field in Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, a fact that is doubly true should they pursue Prince Fielder (or move him to DH, even).
The Yanks would be the biggest threat for stealing Ortiz simply due to their wallet. Assuming Ortiz uses his 2011 salary as his expectation for compensation, he would be looking at roughly $12 million for a year on a new deal -- that's not mega-money, but it's prohibitively expensive for many clubs, especially if they already have players who are capable of slotting in at DH, or a budget, like Oakland's, that last year made them sign Hideki Matsui for just $4.25 million. It's also a possibility that Ortiz is more likely to take a one-year deal from Boston -- especially given they could pay him what he wants -- and that it would take more than a year's commitment to get him out of town, something many teams won't be willing to do. It's one thing to spend a lot of money on a 36-year-old DH, even one who just hit .309/.398/.554, but it's another thing to guarantee him years. The 2011 season did a lot to inspire faith in Ortiz's continued dominance, but the memory of his recent Aprils is a preview for what will happen when the end does come for this splendid stick. Considering the rough seasons of his peers, Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero, there will be teams keeping that in mind at the negotiating table.
Remember, too, that as a DH, Ortiz has just 14 teams to choose from -- 15 if the rumored Astros switch to the American League actually goes through in time for 2012. The Astros already have a DH, though, as Carlos Lee has been a DH stuck in left field for years now, and remains under contract at hefty price -- there is no need for them to sign a new one in order to make the league switch work.
All of this means that it's likely Ortiz will be back where he's been for the last nine years, giving him a decade of service with the Red Sox, and adding to his legacy here. He has played 1,287 games for the Red Sox, bashing 320 homers, and posting a line of .289/.387/.570. If the Red Sox want him back in the lineup -- and their budget for 2012, assuming it's on par with 2011, says that they can afford to want him back -- then he'll be back to add to those figures.