Sunday baseball notes

The Ortiz case, from both sides of the plate

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / February 12, 2012
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David Ortiz’s salary for 2012 will be on the docket tomorrow in St. Petersburg, Fla., unless the sides reach an agreement before his arbitration hearing.

The Red Sox will make their case for a $12.65 million figure, against Ortiz’s $16.5 million request. It will be the job of a three-member panel to rule one way or the other, based on the midway point, which is $14.575 million.

It’s a fascinating case in that Ortiz is a DH and the Red Sox’ number is likely based on comparables of other DHs. Detroit’s Victor Martinez, for instance, earns an average salary of $12.5 million. Chicago’s Adam Dunn earns an average of $14 million, though he played 35 games at first base.

Ortiz is a more productive hitter, with the eighth-highest OPS in baseball last season, .953, which was some 100 points higher than Martinez.

Dunn fell off the face of the Earth with one of the worst seasons ever by a major league hitter at .159, with 11 homers, and 42 RBIs in nearly 500 at-bats.

The lawyers for the Red Sox and Ortiz have one hour each to state their cases, using exhibits and charts and comparables.

Some who do this for a living were asked how things will go in this case, and here are some of their thoughts:

The Red Sox will argue that Ortiz is already at the top of the heap in terms of DH salaries, and while they did not offer a raise (he earned a $12.5 million salary last year and made $150,000 in bonuses), they do feel he deserves one - but not one that would take him beyond the midpoint of $14.575 million. So if he deserves a dollar less than the midpoint, the Red Sox win.

The Red Sox will also likely argue that it was Ortiz who accepted salary arbitration, forgoing the opportunity to become a free agent. That could be a huge point for them, with the implication that he would not be able to get that kind of money in the open market.

Ortiz’s lawyers will argue that because he is a veteran player with many years of service, he can compare himself with all free agents. Sometimes this is accepted by arbitrators and other times the panel keeps the player in the context of his position.

For instance, how does Ortiz compare with Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, who signed mind-boggling free agent contracts this offseason, Pujols for 10 years, $240 million, and Fielder for nine years, $214 million?

The Red Sox will counter by bringing out Ortiz’s games played at first base - a number that diminished to two games in 2011, evidence that he should be compared with other DHs, not everyday first basemen such as Pujols and Fielder.

But Ortiz’s side will argue that he has had a tremendously successful and consistent career. It will draw statistical comparisons to the best hitters in the game and ask, what does it matter if he’s a DH?

Ortiz’s side will also bring up the raise argument.

How can such an important centerpiece hitter go into arbitration without being offered a raise? Even if he is already at the top of the DH charts, his side will argue, he is entitled to a significant raise based on his statistical output and the fact that he is the best DH in the business and therefore can’t be compared with anyone else but himself.

Both sides will bring out stats to serve their own purpose. Most of them are good and hard to dispute. Ortiz hit .287 with runners in scoring position - below his overall .309 average, but is that a negative? He also had an .895 OPS in late and close situations. He hit .329 vs. lefthanders, more than a 100-point hike from his 2010 number. His average with two outs and runners in scoring position, though, was only .209.

The sides will also bring up two-, three-, and four-year composites of his numbers to illustrate either his consistency or a downward trend.

Will it get ugly?

The only way this could turn bad, according to one experienced person who has argued arbitration cases, is if the Red Sox mention that Ortiz was one of the players who tested positive for a banned substance in 2003, when players were tested without consequence. But the Red Sox may be reluctant to go there, for risk of inviting bad feelings.

But Ortiz is the one who accepted arbitration and therefore he must be ready to listen to some negative comments.


Pitcher having location issues

We all understand that when veteran players get to a certain point in their careers, they want to dictate where they play. Roy Oswalt is there now. But why is he so reluctant to pitch in Boston? He just spent a year-plus in Philadelphia and survived OK.

The Red Sox have a deal waiting for him. They also have a spot in the rotation.

Oswalt, a Mississippian, spent the majority of his career in Houston, and would love to spend the rest of it in the Midwest or South - a place like St. Louis or Texas - where he apparently feels more comfortable than he does in the Northeast.

He flatly turned down a chance to pitch in Detroit. Cincinnati wanted him but eventually bowed out. He has turned down opportunities with second-division teams.

It’s rare to hear that a player doesn’t want to play for the Red Sox, considering the tradition of the franchise, the fact that they are perennial contenders, and the passion in Boston.

The Red Sox seem to have satisfied Oswalt’s financial needs, but they can’t seem to convince him to sign on the dotted line.

You can’t accuse Oswalt of shying away from a competitive situation, since St. Louis and Texas were World Series participants. At 34, Oswalt definitely has it in him to still compete.

A veteran baseball official who is familiar with Oswalt said, “He’s definitely a little different. He needs to be in a place where he feels comfortable, and he probably hasn’t spent too much time in Boston.’’

In fact, he has never pitched in Boston.

The Red Sox have done their due diligence on Oswalt. They have studied his medicals, and while his recent back problems are a red flag, they are willing to take a chance on a one-year deal for medium money ($5 million-$7 million).

The Red Sox have some rotation uncertainty. Nothing says that Daniel Bard can’t be a terrific fourth starter, but it’s not a given. Oswalt (if healthy) would at least give them a veteran who has performed at the highest level (two 20-win seasons) in major league baseball.

“I love watching him pitch,’’ said Red Sox lefthander Rich Hill. “He’s always been one of my favorites.’’

In Houston and Philadelphia the last two years, there was a feeling that Oswalt had lost some of his drive and determination, but some of that might be due to his back issues.

In the end, Oswalt may find his perfect location. Until then, Boston - which seems like a foreign country to Oswalt - is at least an option.


Apropos of nothing

1. Many weeks after the fact, Gene Lamont won’t use the word “shocked’’ that he didn’t get the Red Sox managerial job, but he felt he had it.

“It wasn’t anything anyone said,’’ said Lamont, “but you get a feeling about things, and I felt confident based on my talks with them that I had the job. But it didn’t work out.’’

Lamont will return as third base coach of the Tigers under Jim Leyland and will help facilitate Miguel Cabrera’s move to third.

Lamont met not only with Ben Cherington in Boston, but also with Larry Lucchino in Boston, John Henry in Boca Raton, Fla., and Tom Werner in New York City. That sounds like the Red Sox were serious about him.

Also, contrary to popular belief, even though he was in the Red Sox organization as one of Jimy Williams’s coaches, he had no prior relationship with Cherington, who is the one that initiated these talks.

At the very least, Lamont hopes the attention he received could lead to more consideration next offseason when teams are looking for managers.

“I don’t think it hurt,’’ Lamont said. “Sometimes other things start to enter into it like my age. I don’t know what the feeling is, but I’d love a chance to manage again.’’

2. Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia and Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo, former classmates at Tennessee, hung out together at the Super Bowl.

3. Good to see clubhouse dog Brewzer, now 10 years old, back in Sox camp at JetBlue Park.

4. It’s funny, 10 years after Henry wrote a figure on a piece of paper and handed it to Billy Beane as his offer to be GM of the Red Sox (as portrayed in the movie “Moneyball’’), Theo Epstein got that and $18.5 million more over the same length of time from the Cubs.

5. OK, the Mets have no illusions that if Johan Santana regains his form, he would be trade-deadline bait, given that he is owed another $55 million. But if he does return to form, at least they know they have an anchor in the rotation. Mets executives realize that this probably isn’t going to be such a great year, but hold on a second. If some humongous questions are answered - if Jason Bay returns to form now that he’s healthy, if Mike Pelfrey has a year like he had two years ago, if David Wright rebounds from his injuries, and if the younger players begin to step up - they have a chance to be competitive, no?

6. A great kid, Koby Clemens, recently signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays.

7. How did “Moneyball’’ change Scott Hatteberg’s life? “Not much at all,’’ said Hatteberg, who begins his second season as Beane’s special assistant. “I think people ask me more questions and are intrigued more by the philosophies than anything. I don’t think I’m looked at any differently, but just get a lot of comments from people about how much they enjoyed the character, things like that.’’ I asked Hatteberg if he is accompanying Beane to the Oscars. “I don’t think so,’’ he said. “I called [author] Michael Lewis and asked him, ‘Can you get me into this thing?’ He said, ‘I’m not even invited,’ and he wrote the thing.’’ Hatteberg was portrayed as the centerpiece of Beane’s push for on-base percentage when he made Art Howe insert him into the lineup after trading then-prospect Carlos Pena. As it turns out, Pena became a pretty good on-base guy.

8. If I were a kid pitcher in the Mets system, think I’d like Frankie Viola to be my pitching coach.

9. Time Flies Dept.: I remember a mischievous little boy named K.C., who used to hide underneath his dad’s desk in the Red Sox manager’s office. That little kid was K.C. Hobson, son of Butch Hobson, who is now a 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound lefthanded hitter in the Blue Jays organization.

Updates on nine

1. Johnny Damon, LF/DH, free agent - The common reaction you get from baseball people is, “Can’t believe he’s still out there.’’ Then why is he? The Rays decided they needed more power and opted for Luke Scott, a far inferior defensive player. “Damon can still run, and while he’s not the best outfielder, he can certainly play left field decently,’’ said a National League general manager. “It’s funny that nobody seems to have that one spot where he fits, but I’m guessing he gets a spot soon.’’

2. Ryan Flaherty, INF, Orioles - Watch the Portland, Maine, native in camp. The Rule 5 pick from the Rockies could win a roster spot. Flaherty, whose father is the longtime coach at the University of Southern Maine, was a Southern League All-Star in 2011. A lefthanded hitter, he batted .305 with 20 doubles and 14 homers in 83 Double A games before his promotion to Triple A. “He’s a solid infielder with power,’’ said Orioles GM Dan Duquette. “He’s got a good chance to make our team.’’ If Brian Roberts struggles getting back into the lineup after his concussion issues, Robert Andino would start at second base and Flaherty could come off the bench.

3. Jed Lowrie, SS, Astros - The Astros are excited that Lowrie had his best offseason since his career began. He appears to be completely healthy and ready to assume his role as the starting shortstop. Lowrie had nagging wrist and shoulder issues that hurt his effectiveness in Boston.

4. A.J. Burnett, RHP, Yankees - The Yankees seem to be at the end of the road with Burnett. They have offered him around to several teams, with Pittsburgh the predominant suitor at this point. According to Jon Heyman of, the Pirates rejected an offer for first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones, the lefthanded bat the Yankees preferred. But it’s not so much what they get in return as it is getting rid of the player and the majority of the $33 million remaining on his contract. Any money the Yankees save will go toward a lefthanded-hitting DH/outfielder type, with Raul Ibanez and Damon likely in that mix.

5. Vladimir Guerrero, DH/OF, free agent - The Phillies really want to add a righthanded bat, a guy who can pinch hit and occasionally play the outfield. The problem is, they’re perilously close to the competitive tax and don’t want to go over the threshold. Guerrero is one of the righthanded hitters out there, along with Magglio Ordonez, Xavier Nady, and Manny Ramirez (who must serve a 50-game suspension). Manager Charlie Manuel loves hitters, so don’t be shocked if one of them winds up in Philadelphia.

6. Mike Gonzalez, LHP, free agent - He remains the most high-profile lefthanded reliever on the market. Agent Scott Boras has not jumped early, hoping teams reassess their needs right before camp. The Phillies are one team looking for a lefty reliever, but they don’t have a lot of money. The Orioles are looking for one more bullpen piece, but they had Gonzalez in the past. Other “tack-on’’ guys who might be interesting to bring into camp: Sergio Mitre, Ramon Ortiz, Jason Isringhausen, sidearmer Michael Wuertz, and lefthanders Horacio Ramirez, Arthur Rhodes, and Damaso Marte.

7. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, Astros - If there’s a surprise in the Houston front office this offseason, it is the lack of interest in him, considering the Astros would assume a fair portion of the $36 million remaining on his deal. Rodriguez, 32, went 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA for a 106-loss team in 2011. He is due to earn $10 million this season, $13 million next season, and if traded, the option on his contract becomes a player option for $13 million. He pitched 191 innings last season. The Astros also are surprised at the lack of interest in righty Brett Myers, who would appear to be another good back-of-rotation piece for a contending team. Myers pitched 216 innings last year and 223 2/3 in 2010.

8. Yoenis Cespedes, CF, free agent - There was a lot of talk late in the week that the Orioles were the sleeper team for him. The Marlins, Tigers, and Cubs are also interested, but the Orioles are very aggressive in their pursuit of foreign-born players.

9. Manny Ramirez, DH, free agent - The A’s, Orioles, and Blue Jays remain the main teams interested. The A’s need a big hitter and a draw. The Orioles will use Wilson Betemit as their main DH vs. righthanded pitching and have room for Ramirez. The Jays could use a big bat to help out Jose Bautista.

Short hops

From the Bill Chuck files: “Cleveland first basemen made 12 errors in 1,607 chances in 2011. They just signed Casey Kotchman as their 2012 first sacker, and he has made 11 errors in 6,076 career chances.’’ Also, “Marco Scutaro hit .303 in 195 at-bats in the No. 9 slot last season.’’ . . . Happy birthday to Adam Stern (32) and Brian Denman (56).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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