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

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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.

Shaughnessy provides details of Price-Eckersley confrontation

Shaughnessy provides details of Price-Eckersley confrontation

The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, citing "six people who witnessed . . . the incident", provided details Sunday of the confrontation between current Red Sox pitcher David Price and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, now a part-time member of the Sox broadcast team, on a recent team flight from Boston to Toronto.

As earlier reported, Price berated Eckersley over innocuous on-air comments by Eck regarding a rehab start by Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. From Shaughnessy:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

When Price was asked about it the next day, he said only, “Some people just don’t understand how hard this game is.’’

Price later said he was merely standing up for his teammates and "[whatever] crap I catch for that, I’m fine with it.’’

Shaughnessy, citing "three people close to Eckersley," reported that neither Price nor manager John Farrell has apologized to Eckersley.

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

WATCH: Did Sox make right move? / BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: On Devers

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.