The Red Sox do the right thing in re-signing David Ortiz

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The Red Sox do the right thing in re-signing David Ortiz

When you come right down to it, the Red Sox didn't really have much of a choice. We got a glimpse of life without David Ortiz in the second half of last season, and talk about ugly . . .

Once the megtrade with Los Angeles was complete, the Ortiz-less Sox were bereft of middle-of-the-order bats. Unless you wanted to head into 2013 with Cody Ross- and Mauro Gomez-types at the Nos. 4 and 5 spots -- and it's safe to say we got our fill of that last September -- they had to either re-sign Ortiz or find a hitter of his caliber elsewhere. With so many other holes to fill this offseason, it made the most sense to follow the path of least resistance and bring back Big Papi.

Was it the right move? Well, let's go to the checklist:

AGE: Negative. He turns 37 -- at least -- in two weeks, and he's approaching the time of baseball life when skills begin to fade. And sometimes very quickly.

INJURY HISTORY: Negative. Bobby Valentine got killed for bringing it up to Bob Costas, but give the devil his due: We were told this Achilles problem wasn't a long-term thing, and instead it shelved Ortiz for all but one game from July 16 to the end of the year. In typical passiveaggressive Bobby V. fashion, he hinted -- and then piously denied -- that a probably-could-have-returned-to-the-lineup Ortiz shut things down when the season went into the toilet, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case; Ortiz was still hobbling around in October, and even underwent an ultrasound treatment that put him in another walking boot the Monday after the last game.

The Sox, and Ortiz himself, continue to insist he'll be 100 percent come spring training. There's no reason to doubt it . . . but until we see him running freely and pain-free in Fort Myers, how can you be sure?

PLAYING SKILLS: Positive. After an alarming dip in 2008-09 that, in retrospect, can probably be traced to the wrist injury he suffered in '08, Ortiz has performed in recent years at levels befitting a 14 million player. His OPS-plus of 171 last season -- granted, in only 90 games -- tied his career high, and his batting (.318), on-base (.415) and slugging (.611) percentages were all the highest they'd been since 2007. And if you're worried about the small sample size, his 2011 full-season numbers of .309.398.554 weren't that far off.

Alex Speier of weei.com did some great research today comparing Ortiz to the 70 other players who complied an OPS-plus of 130 or more between the ages of 32 and 36, and found the vast majority of them maintained their value remarkably well as they got older. Ortiz may get hurt -- Speier said "durability is many ways the greater concern than performance" with the study group, which makes sense since older players are more injury-prone -- but if he doesn't, the chances of him falling off to a .260, 15-homer season are almost nil.

LEADERSHIP: Positive. Yes, he's been a pain in the butt about his contract status over the last few years and, yes, he's managed to come across as ultra-sensitive, selfish and petty at times. But David Ortiz a) takes enormous pride in being a member of the Red Sox, b) loves the area and the fans, and c) has shown a willingness to hold teammates' feet to the fire. Now that he's been rewarded with the multiyear contract he so desperately craved -- to him, a symbol of respect from ownership -- he'll probably be more willing to step back to the forefront, publicly anyway, in the clubhouse.

BUSINESS-WISE: Extremely positive. The Red Sox are in very bad odor with their audience right now, and jettisoning a folk hero like Big Papi to save a few bucks -- especially since they're flush with cash in the post-Dodger era -- would have been an NHL-like P.R. move of self-immolation.

And then there's this: There's a perception, deserved or otherwise, that the Red Sox aren't real smooth about parting ways with their stars. No one's done more for this franchise than David Ortiz over the last 10 years, and another messy breakup would have sent a message -- both inside and outside the organization -- that this isn't a player-friendly place. The HenryWernerLucchino troika worked hard to erase that stain during the early part of their stewardship, but losing Ortiz would have indelibly marked them as being worthy followers of the Haywood SullivanDan Duquette, alienate-the-troops tradition. Bringing Ortiz back helps rebuild that part of their broken reputation.

So when you add it all up, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Could it backfire? Sure. But with all we know right now, the Sox did the proper thing.

It was a good move. The right move. And now it frees Ben Cherington to roll up his sleeves and get to the real work of rebuilding the Red Sox.

Report: Clippers agree to trade Chris Paul to Rockets

Report: Clippers agree to trade Chris Paul to Rockets

Is one backcourt big enough for Chris Paul and James Harden?

We're about to find out as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports' The Vertical reports that the Los Angeles Clippers have agreed to trade Paul, an All-Star point guard, to the Houston Rockets, where he'll join Harden, the NBA MVP runner-up this past season. 

More from Woj's report: 

Paul, 32, agreed to opt into the final year of his $24.2 million contract, clearing the way for the Clippers to execute a trade with the Rockets and bring back assets for Paul, league sources said.

The Rockets will send the Clippers a package that includes guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, forward Sam Dekker and a 2018 first-round pick (protected Nos. 1-3), league sources told The Vertical. There are smaller parts to the deal, including non-guaranteed contracts, league sources said.

Paul had until Wednesday to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. 

Paul had informed the Clippers he planned to sign with the Rockets as a free agent but asked them to work out a trade, according to Woj. Paul will become a free agent in 2018, but the Rockets will have his "Larry Bird" rights and can re-sign him to a $205 million max deal then.

NBA free agency begins Saturday. 

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.