Ortiz set to accept arbitration from Red Sox

589214.jpg

Ortiz set to accept arbitration from Red Sox

DALLAS -- Even before Wednesday's midnight deadline, David Ortiz has made a decision to accept salary arbitration from the Red Sox, effectively reuniting the slugger with the team for his 10th season with the club.

By accepting the team's offer, which it made last month, binds Ortiz to the Sox and prohibits him from negotiating with any other clubs.

Ortiz and the Red Sox can still negotiate a longer-term deal even after the arbitration acceptance is official, but there's little hope for a resolution beyond 2012.

The club recently made a two-year, 18 million offer to Ortiz, a source confirmed, but that was far from what Ortiz was seeking. Ortiz had hoped that a two-year deal would be worth 25 million, giving him the same payday (12.5 million per season) that he had in 2011.

ESPNBoston was the first to report the Sox' contract offer.

Through the arbitration process, Ortiz is likely to earn somewhere between 13-14 million for 2012, a modest raise over last season. The Red Sox haven't actually gone to arbitration since Theo Epstein took over as general manager after the 2002 season, so it seems likely that the sides will settle beforehand.

"We've had some more dialogue (with Ortiz's agent Fernando Cuza) since we got to Dallas," said GM Ben Cherington, "and he's got that decision to make (Wednesday). We remain hopeful that he's on the team in 2012. That's been our position all along. But we haven't agreed on anything yet."

Cherington, in an indirect reference to the team's two-year offer, said the Sox have "talked to him about" being part of the Sox beyond 2012.

"So, in theory, yeah, we'd like to have him on the team and we've expressed that to him," said Cherington. "If there's a way to make it work, we'd like to have him finish his career with the Red Sox. We haven't reached an agreement on a contract, but we've had good dialogue.

"I think there's a good understanding of our respective positions and a lot of mutual respect. If we don't reach anything by (Wednesday), we'll see what his decision is. If we don't and he accepts, then we'll be happy with that outcome."

Baseball sources indicate that what hamstrung Ortiz on the open market was the knowledge that a team would have to forfeit its first round pick next June in compensation. Ortiz is a Type A free agent, and because the Sox offered him arbitration, they would obtain a first-round pick and a sandwich pick had he signed elsewhere.

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

There are still two full months of games left on the schedule and who knows what might happen in that time, or what else might befall the Red Sox.

But for now, it's no stretch to suggest that Thursday's excruciating 2-1 setback in Anaheim constitutes the worst loss of the season to date. The point hardly seems debatable.

Consider:

THE TIMING: This was the start of the longest, and in many ways, most challenging road trip of the season, with 11 games in 11 days. It comes immediately after a homestand that was highly disappointing, featuring a mere split with the last-place Minnesota Twins and a sweep at the hands of the otherwise mediocre Detroit Tigers.

There's been a great deal of attention focused on how many road games the Sox have to play through the rest of the season. Winning the opener -- and snapping a three-game losing streak in the process - would have felt like a strong statement that the club was ready and able to meet the challenges of the schedule.

THE STARTING PITCHER: The loss wiped out a standout performance by David Price, who may well hold the key to whether the Red Sox grab a playoff spot this fall.

Price has been woefully inconsistent in his first season with the Red Sox, alternating between brief stretches of dominance and periods of underwhelming outings.

For a change Thursday night, Price seemed on the verge of winning one of those "statement'' games, when he would make one measly run in the third inning stand up. There have been too many times, given his standing as the team's No. 1 starter, in which Price has pitched just well enough to lose -- like the pitcher's duels in which he came up short against the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Chris Tillman.

But on Thursday, Price didn't buckle. And never mind that he was matched against an aging and depleted Jered Weaver. Price had next-to-nothing with which to work, but he protected the 1-0 lead with a determination he has seldon shown in Boston.

And for his effort to go wasted sets an inauspicious marker for this demanding trip. There was something symbolic about having Price set the tone at the start with a low-scoring, must-have game.

He did his part. Unfortunately for Price, that wasn't enough.

THE WAY IN WHICH IT HAPPENED: Walk-off losses are never pleasant, whether they come on a homer, or a base hit up the middle.

But considering that the Red Sox had the ability to turn Daniel Nava's tapper to first into a game-ending double play, and instead, saw it result in a two-run throwing error on the part of Hanley Ramirez, makes it all the more crushing.

Brad Ziegler, who gave up a go-ahead game-winning homer in the final game of the homestand Wednesday, essentially did his job in the ninth. He got Mike Trout to hit a chopper, which resulted in an infield single. And he kept the ball on the ground and in the infield, with the Sox bringing the infield in with the bases loaded and one out.

Better execution, and the Red Sox walk away with a thrilling 1-0 victory to begin their West Coast trek. Instead, they walk off the field, heads down, with the wrong precedent being set.