David Ortiz is a tremendous hitter. Last season, despite the general consensus that he was in decline, he reeled off a .952 OPS, 153 wRC+ season, accumulating a 4.2 fWAR despite playing just two games at first base. It was his best campaign since 2007.
Tomorrow, Ortiz is scheduled to go to arbitration with the Red Sox after he accepted their offer rather than test the open market this winter. The pending case is an interesting one; especially considering the slow news day.
Ortiz made $12.5-million last season and that is the same number the team has submitted to the arbiter for this season. Ortiz’s camp has countered with a $16.5-million figure, making the midway point $14.575-million. In arbitration cases, the midway point is of extreme importance. The three-person panel of arbiters must choose one figure or the other so essentially, if they conclude that Ortiz deserves even one penny less than $14.575-million, the Red Sox will win the case; if they conclude he deserves even one penny more, Ortiz will win.
The case for either side is compelling. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe runs down how each side will approach the process should they fail to agree on an extension between now and tomorrow (which seems more and more unlikely as time passes). Here are the finer points:
“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…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.
It seems logical that the Red Sox would make this argument given that if Ortiz really thought he could make $16.5-million on the open market, he would have done that since it is a rather significant raise over the money he made in 2011. Cafardo suggests that Boston will likely make this argument as well.”
As for Ortiz’s case, Cafardo argues:
“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 argue that Ortiz cannot be compared to Pujols or Fielder simply because he should no longer be considered a first baseman and therefore should be compared to other DHs around the league. Of course, when one does this, it doesn’t take long to see how much better Ortiz is than his contemporaries. Even when you take into account that his 2009 season was barely above replacement, Ortiz has been worth 33.5 fWAR in his time with the Red Sox, an average of 3.7 fWAR per year. The scarcity of DH-only-types could either work for or against Ortiz here, depending on how one chooses to view it.
I find it hard to believe Ortiz will end up winning as to me the Red Sox’ case seems more logically sound, but arbiters, it must be remembered, are not “baseball people,” they are often chosen based on a lack of connection to the game as to not cloud their judgement. Either way, Ortiz can be seen as somewhat of a precedent setter here, as he has been throughout his career, given the lack of comparable players of his ilk.
And the rest:
Staying with Cafardo and his very informative “Sunday Notes” column, he suggests that the Orioles could be a darkhorse contender for the services of free agent Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. Yesterday it was reported that the Marlins offered Cespedes a six-year, $40-million contract, although some have suggested the number is lower than that. The Cubs, Tigers and White Sox have also been linked to the 26-year-old and many other teams would make sense.
The always excellent Wendy Thurm (who also writes for FanGraphs) took to SB Nation to provide you and yours with The Ultimate Guide to Spring Training. In the piece, she tells you what exactly to expect in the six-week ordeal that is the Major League Baseball training schedule.
Speaking of Spring Training, the Seattle Mariners reported to camp yesterday, making them the first team to do so. They are getting a head start on the rest of the league because they play the Oakland A’s in Japan more than a week before the rest of the teams start their regular season schedule. Globalization!
Staying with the Mariners, the team, led by best friend Mike Carp, is paying tribute to Greg Halman who was killed this winter in his native Rotterdam, Netherlands. Halman was an ambassador for the game in Europe, where he was already a hero and his presence will be sorely missed. MLB.com Mariners’ beat writer Greg Johns tells the story. The Mariners communications department also wrote a touching tribute to the fallen outfielder.
Evan Longoria apparently had foot surgery in November, but he figures to be 100% by the time he reports to camp. News!
Mike Napoli, who by the way led all of baseball in 2011 in wOBA (min. 400 PA), has settled with the Rangers on a $9.4-million contract for 2012; his final arbitration year. Originally, the Rangers submitted a figure of $8.3-million, while Napoli countered with an $11.5-million figure.
Finally, if you follow Brett Lawrie on Twitter, I feel your pain; but have no fear, @Translawrieate is here! The Brett Lawrie babel fish will translate all of the confusion into a concise package of hilarity so that you may better understand your favourite third baseman.