PHOENIX — The Red Sox [team stats] All-Stars were lined up six deep in a desert ballroom yesterday, Adrian Gonzalez at one end, next to Jon Lester [stats], Kevin Youkilis [stats], Josh Beckett [stats], Jacoby Ellsbury [stats] and David Ortiz [stats] on the other.
One of these stars was not like the other, however.
One of them is a free agent this fall, and if he’s at the All-Star Game next year in Kansas City, Mo., he could be playing for another team.
Which is just too crazy to even imagine.
How could David Ortiz, the face of the Red Sox franchise for the last nine seasons, the one superstar here whose smile and charisma are burning at a higher wattage than any other All-Star, wear any uniform besides a Sox one until the day he retires?
Again, it’s too crazy to imagine.
That still doesn’t make it a longshot.
Ortiz wants at least a two-year deal with an option for a third, and at 36 years old next season, he is a couple of years beyond the age when the Red Sox normally get extremely gun-shy about committing to players for the long term.
No wonder just posing the question about his unsettled future makes Ortiz’ Cheshire-cat smile vanish for an instant.
“You know what? I’ve been in this organization for nine years. My numbers ain’t that bad, you know what I’m saying?” said Ortiz, who wants to re-sign with the Red Sox. “I don’t think I need to open any more eyes than I have already. If you haven’t seen me, you ain’t.”
With only hitting to worry about as the designated hitter, Ortiz understands wear and tear is not his problem.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got more in the tank, I’ve got more than that. I’m just going to turn 36,” he said. “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen to me from now through the next two, three years?”
After last season, Ortiz’ camp made a pitch directly to the highest reaches of the Red Sox front office and proposed that the club sign him to a two-year contract with an option for 2013. The Sox said no thanks. They were willing to wait to see what happened to Ortiz in 2011.
It is 2011, and Ortiz is back to being a feared hitter again. Because so many teams are mystified about how to sign, never mind cultivate, a DH, Ortiz will find a team willing to guarantee at least two more years, which means the Red Sox have to think about a two-year deal with an option for 2014.
“I haven’t heard anything about my future,” Ortiz said. “I’m not worried about it, I’m not worried about it. You worry about it when things aren’t going the way you want them to go. But in that case, that ain’t my problem right now.”
His teammates do see a problem if they cannot see Ortiz in the lineup or in the clubhouse next year.
“I think when all is said and done, David will get a fair deal that’s good for him, good for the Red Sox [team stats] and good for the fans,” said Lester, who is signed through 2013. “He puts too many people into the seats for them not to. I don’t think they’re going to give him a long-term deal. I don’t think he’s going to get as many years as he wants. I hope he does. I hope I play here as long as he gets to play here.
“I just don’t see him going anywhere else. I hope they get it done and it’s to the liking of everyone. Everyone wins and he’s part of this organization for a lot longer.”
Youkilis said Ortiz is “the face of the franchise right now. When you see the highlight reel of all the stuff, Boston versus so and so, no matter what channel you watch, David Ortiz [stats] is one of the guys that they flash up there.”
If Ortiz was gone “it would be a sad day and I think the fans would be pretty sad, too, because I think he’s become the Red Sox guy,” said Youkilis, who is signed through next year.
Ellsbury was caught off-guard.
“Life without David?” said Ellsbury, not eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season. “I can’t really picture that. He’s obviously a huge face of the Boston Red Sox, he’s been for a while. He brings so much, not only on the field but in the clubhouse.”
Beckett, signed through 2014, said, “I hope I don’t have to” lose Ortiz. In fact, he predicted the Sox would not let that happen, calling it just a gut feeling.
“(But) I could be way off. You could come to me next spring training and say, ‘Man, you look like a real (expletive),’ but I don’t think so, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Until it does happen, though, nobody can guarantee that the unimaginable will not become a reality.