David Ortiz will enter the open market at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday — roughly 14 hours from now — if the Red Sox do not sign him.
That does not mean the Red Sox cannot sign him at 12:02 or any time beyond that. It just means they could face some competition for their designated hitter.
The Red Sox have until 5 p.m. to make a “qualifying offer” to Ortiz of one year and $13.3 million. That would ensure them of receiving a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
Free agents who receive qualifying offers have until Nov. 9 to decide whether to accept. Given that Ortiz made $14.575 million last season, he will surely decline it.
The Red Sox are comfortable with Ortiz receiving a two-year contract. The sides are apart on the money.
Is there a market for Ortiz outside of Boston? Potentially, yes.
Ortiz turns 37 in a few weeks and is coming off a Achilles tendon injury that cost him essentially the final two months of last season. But he is a power threat from the left side with established on-base skills.
From an intangible perspective, Ortiz is seen as a positive clubhouse presence and would arrive with two World Series rings and the experience of 66 postseason games. There is no player in the game with more friends on other teams than Ortiz.
Ortiz is seeking a two-year contract. In recent years, teams have been cautious about investing in designated hitters. Most general managers believe in roster versatility and using the DH as a way to keep older position players somewhat rested.
Ortiz can play first base but would prefer not to. That takes the National League out of play. It also somewhat depresses the American League market as teams will be playing 10 interleague road games next season
Texas is one possibility. The Rangers used Michael Young as the DH 71 times last season and could convert him into more of a super sub to make room for Ortiz. The Orioles also need help at DH.
The Yankees? Very unlikely. They need the DH spot to get at-bats for the aging Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
Ortiz wants to stay in Boston. His Big Papi persona plays well there and he is catered to by the organization. If he goes to Texas or Baltimore, he is just another hired gun. There is value, monetary, and sentimental, in finishing his career with the Red Sox.
The guess here is that the sides will get something done, whether it’s today or not, to keep Ortiz in Boston. But once 12:01 hit, he is free to pick up the phone.