Friday, February 10, 2012

Keep Papi, No Matter the Cost

David Ortiz looks like the Cookie Monster. Does this make him a good DH? Not necessarily. But among baseball players who resemble Sesame Street characters, he's almost certainly the best of the bunch. And that's got to be worth something.

Why does any of this matter?  Aside from indicating that I've been spending entirely too much time with my 3-year old daughter, Mr. Ortiz is up for an extremely rare arbitration hearing this Monday in Florida--a situation which is summed up nicely here by's Alex Speier. He  writes:

"The $3.85 million difference between the salary that Ortiz is requesting ($16.5 million) and the one that the team is offering ($12.65 million) could, in theory, represent the cost of acquiring a player like Matt Garza near the trade deadline."

Clearly, money spent now is money they won't have in July. Obviously Ben Cherington does not want to burn all of his resources immediately and hang himself out to dry at the trading deadline.


What would they do at DH should Ortiz win the hearing and the team choose not to sign him? One possibility would be to give Papi's spot to Kevin Youkilis (which could help some of his injury issues) and hand third base to top prospect Will Middlebrooks. An exciting thought, but Middlebrooks isn't ready just yet, though compares his career track to Scott Rolen's.

Rumors are abound that a settlement will be reached, but if Ortiz gets his $16.5 million asking price (as opposed to Boston's $12.65), the team should take it and move on. Sure, he abuses the cookie dough from time to time, but no one's been better than he has at designated hitting over the past few years, despite fan perception that he is falling off.

A quick look at the numbers easily demonstrates this. Last year, of the 11 hitters who had at least 500 at-bats at the position, Ortiz was by far the best. Fangraphs has number 34 sitting atop the fWAR leaders with a total of 4.2, followed by Michael Young of the Rangers at 3.8 and Chicago's Paul Konerko at 3.1. No one else even topped three.

Papi put up a slash line of .309/.398/.554 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 2011. Those number would be stunningly hard to replace at this point in the offseason, even with a Youkilis--who is engaged to Tom Brady's sister oh by the way--slash Middlebrooks shift.

From 2009 (a season in which his power stroke, and therefore his career, was considered done) through last year, Ortiz is third in fWAR with 7.0. That's just behind free agent Johnny Damon's 7.3 and Detroit's Victor Martinez's 10.6. The difference being Papi is primarily a DH while Damon added slightly to his value by playing the outfield and ditto Martinez at catcher.

In any case, David Ortiz still has tremendous value on and off the field and Boston will be better with him in the lineup whether they lose the hearing or not.


  1. > among baseball players who resemble Sesame Street characters, he's almost certainly the best of the bunch.

    Mark Fydrich could claim the top spot:

  2. Haha, touche. My immediate baseball recall goes back to about '87 so Fidrych slipped my mind. Fodder for a future post...