DALLAS -- With less than three hours to spare before a pending midnight deadline, David Ortiz officially informed the Red Sox Wednesday night that he was accepting their offer of salary arbitration, binding him to the Sox for at least the 2012 season.
A Red Sox source confirmed the news.
Earlier Wednesday, the Sox and Fernando Cuza, the slugger's agent, closed the gap somewhat on a two-year deal, but remained enough apart in their negotiations that arbitration loomed as the likeliest outcome to bring Ortiz back to the club for a 10th season.
A baseball source with knowledge of the discussions said the Red Sox upped their previous offer of two years, 18 million "slightly" but the two year deal still fell shy of the 20 million mark.
ESPNBoston was the first to report the Sox' initial offer of two years, 18 million on Tuesday.
The acceptance of the offer of arbitration doesn't mean that the two sides can't continue to negotiate. If they fail to reach agreement on a two-year deal, Ortiz could earn as much as 14 million for 2012 through the arbitration process.
Some reports have suggested that Ortiz could get as much as 17 million through arbiration, though an industry source dismissed that, noting that Ortiz is already, by a significant margin, the highest-paid DH in the game, and there would be little in the way of a comparable salary to send his price that high.
Now that Ortiz has accepted arbitration, the Sox may be less likely to continue to pursuing a two-year deal, since they must move on to filling other needs on the roster and must be mindful of the amount of money committed to 2013.
There is an accounting benefit to the club should a two-year deal be reached, since that would lower the average annual value (AAV) of Ortiz's contract. If, for instance, the two sides agreed to a two-year, 20 million deal, the Sox would be assessed an AAV of 10 million for 2012 and 2013.
That would represent a savings of as much as 4 million (compared to a 14 million arbitration awardsettlement) toward the team's payroll counting against the luxury tax.
A baseball source said Ortiz did have some interest from other American League clubs, but his strong preference was to return to the Red Sox -- even through arbitration -- rather than be guaranteed slightly more money for a second year from another club.