New MLB system will bring Sox, Ortiz to the table soon


New MLB system will bring Sox, Ortiz to the table soon

If it's the off-season, it must be time for some David Ortiz contractual drama.

For the third October running, the Red Sox have a decision to make on their designated hitter.

In 2010, they had to decide whether to pick up a 12.5 million option. (They did.)

Last fall, Ortiz was a free agent, but the Red Sox offered him salary arbitration, and in December, Ortiz accepted, effectively binding him to the club. Minutes before a January arbitration hearing, the two sides essentially split the difference on their filing numbers and agreed on a one-year, 14.575 deal.

Now, it's decision time again. But there are some important differences.

Thanks to a change in the collective bargaining agreement -- signed last November, but not implemented right away -- clubs are no longer allowed to offer arbitration to their own free agents.

Instead, under a new system that more closely resembles the NHL's, teams are permitted to offer their own free agents "qualifying offers." Major League Baseball takes the average of the top 20 percent of players in the game and establishes that as the qualifying offer standard -- one salary fits all.

For this year, the first under the new CBA, that figure will fall somewhere between 13.3-13.4 million.

The problem there is that represents a paycut of more than 1 million for Ortiz, virtually guaranteeing that he would reject such an offer and seek free agency.

Qualifying offers must be made within five days of the conclusion of the World Series. Players then have five days to accept or decline.

Given the likelihood that Ortiz would reject the offer, a sense of urgency has been injected into the negotiations. It would behoove the Sox to get Ortiz signed to a contract before the end of the World Series.

A baseball source indicated the Sox, who had some preliminary talks with Ortiz during the season, will begin talks in earnest within the next week.

Once those discussions begin, another hurdle could develop: Ortiz has made it clear that he wants a multi-year deal as a reward for his production. It rankles the veteran slugger that the Sox have doled out multi-year deals - some as long as seven years -- to players outside the organization, but have been unwilling, over the last two off-seasons, to commit to more than one to him.

Ortiz has a point, of course. And though he missed nearly the entire second half with an Achilles heel injury, his 2012 season -- what there was of it -- was superb. His .611 slugging percentage was his highest since 2007 and his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) of 1.026 was the third-best in his career.

But there are counterpoints, too.

For one thing, Ortiz will turn 37 next month. And as the Achilles heel injury reminded everyone, he's more susceptible to injury, including ones that could be career-threatening.

Moreover, there's the issue of the marketplace. As a DH, Ortiz has little or no value to the 15 National League teams. And of the remaining 14 American League teams (with Houston switching leagues this winter), some are already committed to veteran DHs (Chicago, for example, has two years remaining with Adam Dunn) while others, like the Yankees, prefer to rotate position players in the DH role to provide occasional rest.

Ortiz has said he would like to finish his career with the Red Sox, and ownership has long had a soft spot for Ortiz. What makes the most sense is a one-year deal at a slight raise (say, 15 million or so), with a vesting option at the same figure based on plate appearances. (Teams are forbidden from tying vesting options to actual statistical figures like home runs, RBI, etc).

But if a deal like that is going to be reached, it probably has to happen in the next three weeks. Once it comes to time to make a qualifying offer -- which the Sox would need to do to guarantee they would get draft pick compensation in the event Ortiz signed elsewhere -- the leverage shifts to Ortiz.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.