Most of us hate David Ortiz, but only because he’s worn a Red Sox uniform over the last 10 years. In that time, he’s hit .290/.389/.573, and he’s killed the Yankees with a .313/.403/.569 triple slash. Last year, at 36 years old, the designated hitter signed on to a one year deal with the Boston for $14.5 million. Age was a major deterrent from issuing a multi-year deal, but he’s continued to defy the expected deterioration in hitting.
A late season injury to his Achilles in August limited him to 383 plate appearances in 2012, but in that time he hit 23 homeruns and 26 doubles, walked more than he struck out, and finished with a .318/.415/.611 slash line. As much as we want to hate on him for wearing a different uniform, Ortiz has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the last decade, and the declining trends of age haven’t manifested yet. As he looks to hit the free agent market this offseason, should the Yankees be interested?
Technically, the Yankees don’t have a slotted designated hitter at the moment, but that could change at any point. Although the organization does not look eager to move either of Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez off the field, age can change a player quickly. As of right now, the DH spot is used by Joe Girardi to rest his older players, and that’s a luxury he would lose if he was given a full-time DH like Ortiz.
Furthermore, the Yankees have had success platooning older and cheaper players like Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones. Both of these players had their memorable moments, but neither produced like David Ortiz has. Because Ortiz has very little to no platoon split, you no longer have to carry two platoon DH’s on your roster.
His bat also fits very well into the small confines of Yankee Stadium. You can’t consider him strictly a pull hitter, but the majority of his homeruns come from balls to right field, which would play well with the short right field porch. He also takes his walks without striking out much, something Yankee fans have been clamoring for after the strikeouts racked up during the playoffs.
It’s said that Ortiz is looking for a two year deal worth $25 million. This is a surprisingly reasonable starting point for one of the best hitters on the open market, but the price may still be too steep for a Yankee team eying a 2014/2015 budget. Obtaining him is very much a luxury at this point, and the Yankees have many more questions in areas more important than DH.
Despite Bobby Valentine claiming that he quit on the team, Ortiz is very much wanted back in Boston. Even with the turmoil he’s gone through between the last two season, the 36 year old is excited about the Red Sox recent deal to acquire manager John Farrell, an indication that he wants to return. Also, there are already rumors that both sides are working on a new contract. That said, I expect him to test the market, like he did last season, before he makes a decision.
The difference between his decision could come down to the fact that the Yankees and other teams may be a more enticing place to play than for the Red Sox. Many of his teammates in Boston have been traded or have retired over the last few years, and with that, the team looks extremely different. Not only has the organization had a rough two years, but they look to be rebuilding over the next few as well. Would Ortiz want to possibly play his final years of baseball on a non-competitive team? The Yankees have the upper hand here. Not only is the situation in the Bronx more stable, but he’s very friendly with the other Dominican players like Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez.
This is where the Yankees would step in and at least bid up the slugger to help increase his offer with the Red Sox. The only way I could see the organization realistically obtaining Ortiz would be on order from ownership. As Brian Cashman has a job to keep payroll down, the Steinbrenners would have to make a decision against the budget in order to fit in an extra $12 million a year. The way the offense collapsed during the playoffs, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this option is rattling around in Hank and Hal’s minds. The chances are slim, but certainly not zilch.