Ortiz says he's seeking just a one-year extension
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Ortiz met with the assembled media Wednesday after Red Sox position players underwent their physicals at JetBlue Park.
In his annual State of the Big Papi address, Ortiz, now 38, said he's asking the club to extend his current contract by a season, and by one season only. Afterward, principal owner John Henry said management might be inclined to do just that.
"I'm not looking for a two-year extension, just one," Ortiz said. "I want to make that clear. I said a long time ago, after next year who knows how things are going to be?"
Ortiz is set to earn $15 million this season -- the most of any year in his 17-year-career -- and it has been reported that he is seeking similar money for the extension. During his 11-year Boston tenure, the Red Sox have won the World Series three times, including last fall's six-game victory over the Cardinals.
Papi's performance in the World Series is still fresh in everyone's mind, so no time is better than the present. He batted .688 (11-for-16) with two homers and six RBIs and was named MVP. He is the only current Boston player also in uniform for those World Series wins in 2004 and '07.
It's no wonder that Henry was bullish about keeping the famed Ortiz. Ortiz's agent, Fernando Cuza, just happens to be in camp this week to meet with Ortiz and perhaps move the contract talks forward. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and president-CEO Larry Lucchino are all expected to join Henry in camp Thursday as the entire contingent of defending champs officially works out for the first time this spring.
When asked about an Ortiz extension during a later media conference, Henry said:
"It's conceivable. It's something we'll talk about. We'll definitely meet with them. He's meant so much to this franchise, to New England, for so long now. He's helped carry us to three world championships. I know where he's coming from. He wants to finish his career here and we should try to make that happen."
About the timing of the matter, Henry was clear he'd like it to be addressed before it becomes an ongoing distraction.
"I don't know if it will get done, but it's good to have the conversation at the beginning of Spring Training," he said. "We'll all be here by tomorrow at least. The sooner it's resolved, one way or another, the better it is for everyone."
The Ortiz media conference was a bit of a circus, coming after Papi chastized some critics in a story in the Boston Herald on Wednesday for ripping him all offseason on the Beantown airwaves, as his contract issue was turned over and over.
"It's good to have my friends close and my enemies even closer," Ortiz said to a bank of cameras as he took a seat on a green stack of bleachers set up aside the clubhouse complex.
Ortiz has been a bargain for the Red Sox, signed after he was released by the Twins in 2003 for $1.25 million, perhaps the top free-agent signing in history. So to him, the perceived reaction from some fans has been more than quizzical.
"I don't even know why [the fans] are [complaining] about me talking about contracts," Ortiz told the Herald in colorful terms. "Guys putting up my numbers, they're making $25 million, $30 million. I'm not asking for that. I'm asking for half of it. And they're still [complaining] about it? I'm tired of hearing them talk about me. Hey, every time I talk about my contract, I earn it. So don't be giving me [any of] that."
It turns out Ortiz was just warming up for the big show when he came to addressing his naysayers. He said he had no issue with the Red Sox, but would use the criticism as a motivation.
"I can't wait for the season to start," he said. "I am hungrier than ever."
"Considering how long I've been in this organization I don't think I've disrespected no one," Ortiz said. "I think I've been honest. I think I've been legit. I'm one of the greatest to ever wear this uniform, too. Some people forget about that. I don't like to sound like that, but sometimes you've got to let [people] know. I think it's disrespectful for someone out there to say I'm greedy, that all I want to talk about is contract. When am I going to talk about contract, when I retire?
"A lot of those guys that go out on those radio shows, they like to go out with their chest out and talk trash. Before you do that you better know who you are talking about."
Ortiz had a turnaround season in 2013, after injuries restricted him to 90 games, 23 homers and 60 RBIs when the Red Sox bottomed out and finished last in 2012. Last year, he played in 137 games and his power numbers returned to a standard 30 homers and 103 RBIs. He then played in all of Boston's 16 playoff games, including three at first base during the World Series in St. Louis when the Red Sox couldn't utilize the designated hitter.
At midseason, he wasn't sure whether he would seek an extension. Now he says he's healthy and refreshed and ready to keep playing. Under those circumstances, he produces, so the backlash seems to be misplaced and extreme.
"They're haters," Ortiz said about those ripping him. "People hate. That's the world we're living in today. People hate people and are not comfortable with you doing well. That's it. That's the way I see it because I do not disrespect no one. I just [go] about my business, do what I got to do and win championships.
"That's what every single person who is a fan of an organization should want from a player. That's what I do."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.