Just got off a conference call with Theo Epstein.
The basics: They talked about a multi-year deal to no avail. Ortiz is happy with the extension and told Theo directly that he is "cool."
Epstein said talks are ongoing with the other free agents but he does not expect any deals made in the next 48 hours. So Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Bill Hall and Jason Varitek will all hit the market.
A transcript to follow here.
Question on picking up the option and whether a multi-year deal was explored: “We’re very happy to get this resolved today in a manner that was ultimately acceptable to both parties. David is a player who is very important to our ownership and to our fans and given these feelings, the fact that he’s still very productive and the fact that there was a one-year solution built in to the contract, this seemed like not only the most likely outcome but the one that balanced all the various factors in the most appropriate manner.
"David did express an interest in a multi-year deal to us, as well as publicly. We explored that. But we couldn’t find anything that made as much sense as the one-year commitment. In the end, David understands this outcome, is very much OK with it and in the end is committed to the 2011 Red Sox.”
Question on possibility of a longer deal: “Well, we explored it and it just didn’t work out in the end. Both sides through it made sense to fall back on the one-year solution. We never say never; things could always come up that cause you to turn in a new direction. But I think at this point, the feeling is that we explored it, it didn’t work out. Both sides, for a lot of reasons, were fine going to the one-year mechanism that was already built into the contract and moving forward and happy and focusing on 2011.
Question on letting the deadline pass and working on a new deal more in line with the DH market: “Yeah, all options were considered. This is a one-year deal, that was an important factor to the club. We’re dealing with a player who’s made unique contributions to the success of the franchise since this ownership group has been here and that can be a factor in resolving these situations as well. Ultimately we’re in the business of winning and we have to build a team that wins and you have to make tough decisions. Given the fact that it’s a one-year deal, the fact that it was built into the contract to begin with and the good feeling about what David has done in the past and meant to this franchise and what he currently means to the franchise and to the ownership group, this really made sense.
“And not to mention the most important factor of all, that he’s still very productive, arguably the best and most impactful player at this position in the game. That fits with our winning approach."
What aspect of Ortiz's 2010 season most impressed the Red Sox and led to the option getting picked up: "You know, I think each of the last two years, the most impressive part of David’s performance has been the way he’s bounced back from the tough starts. This is not an easy market to recover after a difficult start, especially a player of David’s stature with all the attention that his performance gets on a daily basis. The fact that he was able to dig himself out of a really difficult holes both times and go on to put up impressive seasons, that was encouraging. Certainly, if he gets off to a better start next year and is able to maintain that level of production, it bodes well.”
On David saying previously he would be unhappy with a one-year deal: “He’s happy now with the one-year solution. I think in the end he realized that we weren’t in a position to give him what he was looking for with a multi-year arrangement and this was an outcome that was acceptable to both sides. That was important to us, to be honest with you. I don’t think we were that interested in picking up an option if it was going to be seen as burdensome to the player or seen as unfair to the player. That was a component of these talks and to make sure that ultimately David was content and comfortable playing on the option. Because if you’re going to pick up an option of this magnitude, you want to make sure it works for both sides.
"So he’s happy now. We made sure of that before we reached our final decision and both sides are moving forward committed to the 2011 Red Sox winning as many games as we possibly can.”
Might the Red Sox need a right-handed DH next year given David’s struggles against lefties: “I think, we always try and have a well-balanced roster. You always want your bench to complement the starting core. That’s something we’ve accomplished in the past, some years to more of a degree than others. Ultimately that will be Tito’s call on who plays against what type of pitching and whatnot. Certainly we’ll have complementary players on the bench who have that skill. That’s also something we wanted to make sure everybody’s on the same page about as we head into next year, that there’s comfort in the contract, comfort with the role, comfort with the manager. Certainly Tito and David are absolutely on the same page, on great terms and it shouldn’t be an issue going into next year.
Did Epstein speak directly to David and be assured Ortiz is OK with a one-year deal? “Yeah, I talked to him directly. He told me directly that he was cool with it.”
On the other free agents, could anything get done before they enter the market in 48 hours? “You never know and we’re continuing to have dialogue with the representatives for our free agents. But realistically you don’t see too many deals done one or two days away from free agency beginning in earnest.
“I’ll kind of answer the question the same way I answered it the day after our season ended which is we value these guys, we’d like to find a find a way to bring some or all of them back if we possibly could. But free agency is something that players work long and hard to get, it a right that they earn and often look forward to exploring. If the Red Sox are best fit in the end, we’d love to bring these guys back. But they certainly have the right to explore all opportunities and I’m sure we’ll be in great touch with all of these guys over the next couple of month.
That count Bill Hall? “Yeah, we’d love to have Bill Hall back in the right circumstances. He really, I thought, blossomed this year in a super utility role. He played so well, in fact, especially in terms of his power production that he might attract interest from a number of teams as an everyday player and get more substantial playing time. And if that happens, I’m sure that would be of interest to Billy. If later in the offseason, he’s in a position to consider a super utility role and based on the moves we’ve made with our everyday players, that type of player makes sense on our roster, I’m sure we’ll be talking. He was nothing but a great teammate while he was here and a contributing player.”
On Brent Dlugach: "We see him as a plus-fielding shortstop. He's got a little bit of pop as well [and] provides depth for us at that position. At this time of year, there are certain position you're always trying to build significant depth because of the attrition that happens during the season. So if you can pick up center fielders, shortstops, catchers, and arms this time of year a build organizational depth, it often makes sense. He was somebody in a roster squeeze in Detroit and we were able to acquire him at a cost that makes sense. We'll see. We certainly have established shortstops at the major league roster. But this somebody who has some well above average defensive skills. We'll bring him to spring training and see where he fits into the organizational hierarchy at short."
My analysis: As was written earlier today, the Sox are trading money for roster flexibility, something they can get away with. My guess — and this is just a guess — is that if Theo had his way he would not have picked up the option and tried to bring David back at a cheaper price or somebody comparable for $5 million.
But clearly John Henry has a soft spot for Ortiz and you can make a case that Ortiz has done enough for the Red Sox (at a bargain rate in previous years) to merit being overpaid in 2011.
In the end, this solution makes sense for both sides. Now the Sox can move ahead and find a catcher and a third baseman.