Red Sox decide to pick up option on Papi
Boston declines options on Hall, Lopez, keeps Atchison
BOSTON -- The Red Sox did not like the idea of David Ortiz becoming a free agent, so they made sure it didn't happen. Instead, the club exercised the $12.5 million option on the star slugger, who has reached iconic status during his eight years in Boston.
Ortiz has said in several interviews in recent months that a multiyear extension would be more to his liking than the one-year option. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said the sides discussed multiyear packages earlier this week, but that common ground was not reached. He added that Ortiz responded well to the option being picked up.
"Well, first of all, we're very happy to get this resolved today in a manner that was ultimately acceptable to both parties," Epstein said. "That was important to us, to be honest with you. I don't think we were that interested in picking up an option if it was going to be seen as burdensome to the player or unfair to the player.
"That was a component of these talks, to make sure that ultimately David was content and comfortable playing on the option. Because if you're going to pick up an option of this magnitude, you want to make sure it does work for both sides. He's happy now. We made sure of that before we reached our final decision. Both sides are moving forward, committed to the 2011 Red Sox winning as many games as we possibly can."
Efforts to reach Ortiz were unsuccessful.
By exercising the option before Thursday's midnight ET deadline to do so, the Red Sox secured Ortiz's services for 2011 and continued a relationship with a player who has had some of the biggest hits in franchise history.
"David is a player who is very important to our ownership and to our fans, and given these feelings -- the fact that he's still very productive and the fact that there was a one-year solution built into the contract, this seemed like not only the most likely outcome, but also the one that balanced all the variables and factors in the most appropriate manner."
If Boston had declined the option, Ortiz would have been a free agent for the first time since the Minnesota Twins released him following the 2002 season.
In light of the contracts signed by established veteran designated hitters like Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui last winter, it's unlikely Ortiz would have received an annual salary as high as $12.5 million on the open market. But Epstein acknowledged that for a player of Ortiz's stature, it came down to more than just pure business.
"I think we're dealing with a player who has made unique contributions to the success of the franchise since this ownership group has been here, and that can be a factor in resolving these situations as well," said Epstein. "Ultimately, we're in the business of winning, and we have to build a team that wins and you have to make tough decisions. Given the fact that it's a one-year deal and the fact that it was built into the contract to begin with, and the good feeling about what David has done in the past and meant to this franchise and what he currently means to the franchise and this ownership group, this really made sense.
"Not to mention, the most important factor of all -- he's still very productive and he's arguably the best and most impactful player at his position in the game. That [meshes] with our winning approach."
In addition, the Red Sox will also exercise the club option on reliever Scott Atchison, who returned from a two-year stint from Japan and turned in a solid season.
The Sox declined the options on Bill Hall and Felipe Lopez. Hall was a valuable utilityman for Boston in 2010 and could factor into the team's plans for next season depending on how the offseason shakes out.
"We'd love to have Bill Hall back under the right circumstances," Epstein said. "I thought he blossomed this year in the super-utility role. He played so well, in fact, especially in terms of his power production, that he might attract interest from a number of teams as an everyday player to get more substantial playing time. If that happens, I'm sure that would be of interest to Billy. But if later in the offseason he's in a position to consider a super-utility role and based on the moves we've made with our everyday players that type of player makes sense on our roster, I'm sure we'll be talking. He was nothing but a great teammate while he was here, and a contributing player."
Lopez was a late-season pickup after being released by the Cardinals. He is likely to seek a more prominent role elsewhere.
But the most significant news of the day, by far, was that Ortiz -- who turns 35 in two weeks -- will continue his tenure with the Red Sox. The left-handed designated hitter has gotten off to nightmarish starts in each of the past two seasons, and both times he dealt with enormous scrutiny, answering near daily questions about whether he was finished as a productive hitter.
In 2009 and 2010, Ortiz responded in dramatic fashion, particularly this past season. After hitting .143 with a homer and four RBIs in April, Ortiz went on a tear in May, hitting .363 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs and was named the American League's Player of the Month.
"I think each of the last two years, the most impressive part of David's performance has been the way he's bounced back from the tough starts," Epstein said. "You know, this is not an easy market to recover after a difficult start, especially a player of David's stature and all the attention that his performance gets on a daily basis. The fact that he was able to dig himself out of really difficult holes both times and go on to put up impressive seasons, that was encouraging, and certainly if he gets off to a better start next year and is able to maintain that level of production, it bodes well."
Ortiz's 2010 season was his most productive in just about every category since 2007, as he hit .270 with 32 homers, 102 RBIs and an .899 OPS.
Big Papi became a cult hero in Boston in 2004 when he produced countless clutch hits in the club's march to its first World Series championship in 86 years. Ortiz came up big again in '07, as the Red Sox won it all for the second time in four years. The Red Sox have qualified for the postseason six times in the eight years Ortiz has been with the team.
Since coming to Boston, Ortiz has become a fixture not only at Fenway, but also in the community. Ortiz is one of the only players on the team who spends much of the offseason in the area, and he even has a restaurant -- Big Papi's Grille -- in a Boston suburb.
When Ortiz first arrived in Boston, he was a platoon player just competing for playing time with Shea Hillenbrand, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar and Jeremy Giambi. But starting on June 1 of that 2003 season, Ortiz blossomed into one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Ortiz's six 30-homer seasons with Boston tie him with Manny Ramirez for second on the club's all-time list, trailing only Ted Williams, who did it eight times. With the Red Sox, Ortiz has hit .286 with 291 homers and 932 RBIs. In his career, he is a .281 hitter with 349 homers and 1,170 RBIs. He has been an All-Star six times in the last seven seasons.
The walk-off hit has become an Ortiz trademark, as he's produced 18 of them in his time with the Red Sox, 11 of them home runs.
Now that his option has been picked up, Ortiz can add to those totals, and in turn, his legacy.