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Sox add a year for Papi; Ortiz agrees to $16M in '15.

Byline: Nick Cafardo

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- An extension for David Ortiz was never supposed to be a major event or something that should have been extended more than five minutes.

But it did take longer than five minutes for some reason.

After winning the World Series MVP and after a tremendous postseason and regular season in which Ortiz remained one of the best hitters in baseball, he and the Red Sox finally agreed on a deal that gives Ortiz a modest increase of one million dollars to $16 million for the 2015 season.

Ortiz was always looking for some sign from the Red Sox that they appreciated his contributions last season in leading them to a third World Series championship, but the team still reminded him that he's a DH and not a positional player.

Ortiz, who asked for only a one-year extension, could have insisted on the $20 million per year he truly felt he deserved and warranted, but instead settled again for a hometown discount for the peace of mind that he's where he wants to be for the remainder of his career.

Ortiz has no idea how long he wants to play. He has struggled in spring training, but admittedly has not turned the switch on yet. He's still getting his timing at the plate and trying to start the year healthy after a productive offseason in which he again got himself into very good shape and he is trying to gear up for the long haul.

Ortiz stopped being controversial about his contractual plight shortly after he reported to camp. He had another initial outburst after an offseason tour of contractual discourse.

It seemed that once John Henry, who also owns the Boston Globe, spoke to him there seemed to be a sense that the extension would be completed in his favor.

The negotiation was merely to find out how close to that $20 million figure he'd get and it wasn't very close.

Ortiz will play for $15 million in 2014. He made $4 million in incentives last season that added to his guaranteed $11 million for staying off the disabled list for more than 20 days.

As of yet, we don't know if the extension contains anything concerning health or something that might trigger a second year.

The original plan here was for the Red Sox not to talk contract with Ortiz until after this season. The Red Sox thought they had an agreement with Ortiz that that would be the way it would go.

But Ortiz never seemed to get that memo and started publicly speaking about an extension. After his exploits in the World Series, he drove the conversation back toward an extension and the Red Sox succumbed to it, certainly not wanting to anger their best hitter.

Ortiz has always fought the notion that just because he's a DH that he's not as valuable as other players around baseball. The Red Sox always made it clear to him that he was the top paid player at his position. But he continued to have one of the best OPS's in the game and remains the centerpiece and most feared hitter in the Red Sox' lineup.

When you study salaries around the game and top offensive performers, only the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera surpassed Ortiz in production of the players paid more than $20 million per season.

Ortiz was still making far less than less productive players like Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Vernon Wells (not even in baseball anymore), Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez (when he was active), Ryan Howard and many others.

Ortiz was certainly aware of the many players -- 61 of them -- making more money than he was. He has always pointed out that he never asked to be the highest paid, but only wanted what was fair.

Now the question is how much longer can Ortiz play?

It's all about how much longer he wants to toil to get in shape and stay in the limelight. Every player wants to make the big bucks and when and if Ortiz has a strong '14 season and even better '15 season then it will continue to be a struggle to receive the big dollars.

If Ortiz had decided to play it out with the Red Sox and go after a $20 million payday, he might have been successful if he had a good year.

While teams have begun to look at the DH position as one in which they can rotate players to rest them, there's only one Ortiz.

As Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter often said when asked about the rotation of DHs, "If I had a guy like David Ortiz there would be no rotation.'' It's true. The Angels are taking a chance on 41-year-old Raul Ibanez as their DH this season.

As long as the player can still hit and stay healthy running the bases, age is not a huge factor at the DH position.

In addition, Ortiz is one of the biggest ambassadors for baseball, a hero among Latin players, who seize every moment to seek out his advice. Players continually seek him out when they come to play the Red Sox. He's one of the most respected players in baseball. And Ortiz has been so helpful to so many young players over the years.

The Red Sox just signed another good value contract to go along with the many they've put together the past two years -- Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, A.J. Pierzynski, Mike Napoli, Edward Mujica and others.

Next up is Jon Lester.

Negotiations with the lefty are ongoing, but the Red Sox won't sign any player to a deal that won't be in their favor. We'll soon find out if Lester obliges like Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia did.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Cafardo, Nick
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 24, 2014
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