In a piece on the best and worst baseball decisions of the decade, Keith Law called the Red Sox, 1-year, $1.25 million contract to David Ortiz in 2003 as the best free agent signing.
Ortiz didn’t file for free agency after a 2002 season in which he slugged .500 for the Twins in 125 games, because he wasn’t eligible for free agency yet. The Twins didn’t like the idea of going through arbitration with him and instead released him a few days before the non-tender deadline. The Red Sox happened to have an opening at DH and an affinity for guys like Ortiz who hit for power and controlled the zone, so they gave him an almost riskless contract for just one year; if his knee acted up again as it did in 2002, or he didn’t perform up to expectations, he was barely making a dent in their budget and was playing a position that’s relatively easy to fill, but if he performed, the Red Sox controlled his rights into 2004. Ortiz hit .288/.369/.592 with his new club, as the Red Sox gave him playing time and encouraged him to swing away instead of focusing on contact, and he topped those slash stats in each of the following four years as the Red Sox won two World Series with his help.
It is hard to disagree if you look at Big Papi’s entire tenure with the Red Sox. But for that one season, Ortiz was only worth 3.4 wins. Compare that to Carlos Pena who was worth 6.1 wins in 2007. That year the Rays paid Pena $800K.
But as Law pointed out, it was essentially a two-year deal as Ortiz would not hit six years of service time until after the 2004 season. The Red Sox paid Ortiz $4.59 million in 2004 and he was worth 4.7 wins. For about $5.8 million the Red Sox got 8.1 wins and a key contributor to the 2004 World Series. For $800K, the Rays got 6.1 wins.
Based just on those initial contracts, we still give the edge to the Red Sox and Ortiz. But it’s close.
DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- BJ (née Melvin) Upton is now on Twitter. [TheRealBJUpton]
- This is just speculation on his part, but Phil Rogers thinks Fernando Perez could be an option for the Cubs…Even though there is not a need for Perez at the big league level, it would still require a legit prospect to pry him from the Rays. The reason is, Perez still has at least two minor league options and gives the Rays depth and insurance at almost no cost. If needed, they know he can contribute. So unless the Cubs are going to give a very good low-minors prospect or a young, cheap arm that can contribute in the bullpen this season, there is little reason for the Rays to trade Perez. [Chicago Tribune]
- Buster Olney looks at what money some teams have left to spend in free agency and speculates that the Red Sox and Yankees may have already reached their payroll limits or are very close. That could mean that neither team will make any additional significant additions prior to the season such as Jason Bay. [ESPN]
- One name you can scratch off the Rays free agent shopping list is Kelvim Escobar, who signed with the Mets. [Newark Star-Ledger]
- Reid Brignac is playing winter ball in Mexico working on his defense at second base and his pitch selection at the plate. [St. Pete Times]
- Jayson Stark ranked Pat Burrell as the 8th Least Valuable Player of the decade. [ESPN]
- Bill Chastain did a Q&A with Dan Wheeler about Christmas. [MLB]
- David Price spoke to 150 kids at a recent baseball camp and said he was more nervous than he has ever been on a baseball mound. [Cullman Times]
- Joe Maddon recently spoke with the baseball team at Lafayette College where he played baseball and Football in the mid-70s. [Lafayette]