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Ortiz has a good point -- and a good contract

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  July 5, 2012 02:05 PM

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David Ortiz found another sympathetic listener. Here's what he told USA Today:

"If you go crazy and give contracts to whoever comes along despite not knowing how they're going to do, then you don't give me my due consideration, even though I do my thing every year, (expletive) that. I'm going to be open to anything. My mentality is not going to be, 'I like it here.' It's going to be, 'Bring it to the table, and we'll see what happens.' "

Ortiz also called being offered arbitration last winter, "humiliating" and "embarrassing."

At last count, Ortiz has said these exact words or words to this effect four times since the start of spring training.

Who can blame him? He has carried the Red Sox on his back all season and when he looks around the clubhouse he sees assorted underachievers and/or malcontents who have been given long-term contracts. Ortiz has every right to be sore about his one-year deal even if it is worth $14.575 million.

But whether he cares to admit it or not, the Red Sox did him a huge favor when they offered him arbitration. That offer essentially assured Ortiz would get a significant raise from 2011 (it proved to be 16.6 percent) and freed him from having to go on the free agent market and shop himself around.

This was explained to Ortiz by his agent, Fernando Cuza, and that was why he accepted the offer of arbitration.

It's also why, when it's all said and done, Ortiz should hope the Red Sox offer him arbitration again. Because the alternative would not be to his liking.

Ortiz is the best designated hitter in the game. But he is a designated hitter. That limits his market to the American League.

Only a handful of AL teams still use a traditional DH. The Red Sox (Ortiz), the Royals (Billy Butler) and the White Sox (Adam Dunn) are three of them. Toronto has Edwin Encarnacion and Texas their own aging team icon in Michael Young.

Most teams, including the Yankees, see the DH as a way to give position players a little break. Joe Girardi has used Alex Rodriguez as the DH 20 times, Raul Ibanez 14 times, Andruw Jones 13 times and Eric Chavez 11 times. Even Derek Jeter has DH'd nine times.

The Yanks are paying Ibanez, Jones and Chavez a combined $4 million. New York is getting an .871 OPS out if the DH spot. That's the second-best in the league.

With their expensive older players, there is little chance the Yankees would give Ortiz a two-year deal worth $28 million. Or even $20 million.

Ortiz also will be 37 in November. That's well past the expiration date for most players. And while he has done an admirable job of getting in better shape, that will be harder to do as he gets older.

Look at Vladimir Guerrero. He's 37 and on the street. Johnny Damon couldn't do better than short money from Cleveland in May. He's 38. Hideki Matsui, 38, had to prove himself in the minors before the Rays threw him a few bucks.

The market for aging DHs is an unfriendly one. Yes, Ortiz is clearly the best around. But teams have learned that in the post-steroid, post-amphetamine era, young, athletic players are the key.

Had Ortiz declined arbitration last winter, the Red Sox would have told him to go shop around for a deal. He would have found one year, $10 million tops. If that. They did him a favor by offering him arbitration and I suspect that came from John Henry out of sentiment. Ben Cherington probably argued for trying to sign him for less.

Other than the Orioles, and even that's a stretch, it's hard to name one team that would make a significant financial outlay for Ortiz in 2013. Outside of the Red Sox, of course.

Ortiz should be offended that the Red Sox have showered money on players who will never remotely mean what he does to the franchise. But contracts are a simple matter of supply and demand. Teams want young outfielders, first basemen and pitchers. Teams aren't looking to spend money on designated hitters in their late 30s.

Ortiz has made his point and it's a good one. In a perfect world, the Sox would gather up the money they wasted and give it to the players who deserve it.

But sometimes life is unfair and you still get $14.575 million and a private jet to the All-Star Game.

Ortiz can surely find more sympathy if he wants it. But what the Red Sox need right now is leadership, home runs and RBIs. If he still wants to walk at the end of the season, that's his right and good luck to him.

But in the end, when he looks at his options, Ortiz may find Fenway Park isn't so bad after all.

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