What’s the next act in the Ortiz saga?

Most of the commentariat is still wondering what’s wrong with Papi. Sox fan Russ Smith is on to the next question:

The real question is how Boston’s normally sober and calculating general manager Theo Epstein is going to negotiate Ortiz’s exit from Fenway Park. He’s in a real bind: when Epstein dispatched onetime Sox legend Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs at the 2004 trading deadline, there was some grumbling, but the oft-injured shortstop had become, by that season, a malcontent who was hurting the team not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well. As a Sox fan, I applauded Epstein for having the guts to make that move; and when the team finally won a World Series a few months later, most of Boston agreed. But Big Papi? Man, Epstein will have elephant-sized balls to release the big lug, despite the inevitability. It’s my bet that Epstein will take action, but probably later rather than sooner, as sentiment will prevail over business.

I still say we’ll see a long stint on the DL, followed by an almost immediate trade for a big bat (you’ll be best advised, however, not to ask whether the trade was brokered before the “injury” was discovered). If the trade works, great, the Sox head towards the playoffs, Oritiz comes back when rosters expand and is allowed to hit some without the question of whether or not he should be given his job back hanging over his head. Of course not: the big bat Theo picked up in July has earned the right, and Papi will get a chance to start fresh in 2010.

If the trade doesn’t work and the Sox miss the playoffs? Well, that raises enough other questions that the issue of David Ortiz’ struggles will fade in significance. The key is that David Ortiz cannot be the everyday DH at the same time the Sox are slipping out of the race,* because then everyone gets the blame.

*For these purposes, please ignore the fact that the Sox could have a nice comfy lead right now if it weren’t for the fact that David Ortiz is cooked.

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  1. Soxrocker said...

    Sounds terrible to say, and perhaps it is, but Papi AND the Sox could use a 50-game suspension without pay….not that there even IS such a thing….hey, wait a minute!!!

    Haven’t heard this mentioned much, if any, but as a fellow Sox fan, sometimes I wonder if Ortiz knows/thinks he’s on the “secret” MLB ARoid list, and it’s messing with his concentration. But that’s insane, isn’t it? Early in spring training I remember Papi condemning PED use and calling for a SEASON-LONG suspension for any cheaters.

  2. bpasinko said...

    If I had used steroids and I wasn’t going to come out and admit it to everyone, I would walk around everywhere saying how it’s ruined the game and how you should be suspended for the season.  What would you have to lose?  I assume some integrity, but if it comes out you’ll lose that anyways.  I think you are better off talking about it it and crossing your fingers that it never comes out that you used, than just being quiet.

  3. Dan said...

    Craig is right, a stint on the DL is more likely than a trade or being released.  But I still say the Sox can wait out the rest of June before making a major change.  For one thing, Papi has had atrocious luck lately, hitting some shots in Toronto and Detroit that ended up in someone’s glove.  Those same shots at Fenway are gone, and they are back now from the longest trip of the year.  With Ellsbury dropped, the offense has gotten it in gear again, which means Papi can keep working at it for a few weeks.  In addition, interleague play is actually a help with Ortiz hitting like he is.  They don’t need to ask the big lug to get his glove out of storage – aside from giving Lowell a rest once or twice, there is no reason to sit Youkilis and play Ortiz.  Let him be the (maybe, just maybe) dangerous bat off the bench that you need in an NL park.  Otherwise losing the DH is no big deal.

    Call me crazy but at this point I don’t see the use in giving up so much of the farm to pry Gonzalez or V-Mart away, and the other bats aren’t impressive enough to justify losing Bard or MDC or Bowden, let alone a Buchholz.  So what I am wondering about is a “bad contract for bad contract” trade, if it in fact comes to that.

    Ortiz for Magglio Ordonez.  They are stinking it up equally badly, but Fenway might be the right place to Miggy going again.  The only problem is I think Ordonez contract goes longer than Ortiz, and I don’t want to block Lars from getting to Boston in 2010 or 2011.

  4. Rob² said...

    There’s zero chance that the Sox release Ortiz.  They know as well as anyone about sunk cost.  Ortiz isn’t going to poison the clubhouse looking for a new contract, so the only advantage to releasing #34 is to free up a spot on the active roster.  That’s just as easily done with a stint on the DL. (Perhaps for recovery from laser eye surgery?)

    Now, what they do about next season or whenever his contract is up… That’s the big question.

  5. Aaron Moreno said...

    Ortiz is an aging fat guy who stopped hitting, can’t take the field, and has a big contract. He is too toxic to trade. Even so, I can’t imagine he would be released. There would have to be several teams who would sign him on the Sox’ dime, and the Boston media would would go nuts. For as much as Theo & Co. follow the sabermetric ways, they do pay a lot of attention to that stuff.

  6. MJ said...

    I’m honestly shocked no one has brought up lingering effects from the wrist injury last year.  Look at Nomar’s career.  Three straight years of 140 OPS+, breaks his wrist, and then never tops 127.  Even if his wrist is fine, it seems a more plausible excuse than the eyesight especially when Ortiz tells the media he’s always had 20/20 vision.

  7. Nick Whitman said...

    I’m not that interested in why Ortiz has lost it.  The fact is that he has lost it, and the Red Sox can’t afford to have him in the lineup on a daily basis no matter where he’s hitting.

    I’d consider giving up a ton for Adrian Gonzalez.  He’s only 27 and has been phenomenal in the worst hitters park in baseball.  In Fenway he could be one of the very best hitters in baseball.  I think you give up whatever it takes to get him and lock him up long-term.

    Victor Martinez isn’t even remotely in Gonzalez’ class.  He’s three years older, and a phenomenal hitter for a catcher, but his value isn’t all that as a first baseman or DH.  I wouldn’t give up any of the top prospects for him.

    Barring Gonzalez, I’d like to see some mid-level prospects for a respectable slugger like Nick Johnson or even Jack Cust.  I don’t think the Red Sox can win anything without an upgrade to their offense, and they have a stacked farm system that can afford to pay for a quality hitter to keep them in contention.

  8. Kelly said...

    I think they should just let him go now.  It’ll blow over in a heartbeat—Boston is known for their forgiving fans and letting things go….

  9. Jack Marshall said...

    Even with Ortiz an automatic out, the Red Sox have enough offense to win once the starting pitching pitches up to its talent—-which, if you look at Becket and Lester lately, is just starting to happen—-to go with the best bullpen in captivity.

    That said, it would be stupid to do it. My read is that the team still holds hope that Ortiz will do a Delgado, and games like tonight will keep those hopes alive enough to buy Papi a few more weeks each time it happens. I bet that if gets his numbers up to, say, .220 with 8 home runs by the break, the Sox will cross their fingers and stand pat until the last possible moment.

  10. Nick Whitman said...

    I honestly don’t think the Red Sox have enough offense to be a legitimate contender.  As it stands, shortstop and DH are a black hole, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s no great shakes either.  Mike Lowell’s production always falls off a cliff in the second half.  Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis are hitting at a career-best rate, but it would be foolish to assume that they (and Varitek) will keep up that pace.  The Sox sorely need another bat in the lineup.

    And no, I’m not excited about Ortiz hitting a home run that wouldn’t have left any other park in baseball.

  11. Kevin S. said...

    It uses the old “BAbip = LD% +.120” assumption; that’s really out of date now.  There’s an essay floating around somewhere on THT about the new way of calculating a hitter’s expected BAbip, but it involves regressing multiple variables, including speed and handedness.

  12. Sal Paradise said...

    But if you get Victor Martinez, you resolve the aging Varitek problem. He may be hitting this year, but 2008 makes me wary.

  13. Will Moller said...


    Take a look at the following analysis when you’ve got a second:


    The moneyshot: “Ortiz is indeed hitting line drives at a 24.1% clip, about 1/3 of the way through the season.

    Long story short: Big Papi is going to stop being the butt of so many jokes before the year is out. We can just hope that by then Jason Varitek and Jason Bay have fallen back to earth.”

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