Playing nine innings while wondering if there were any secret ingredients in Jacoby Ellsbury’s free breakfast from a Sox fan …
1. David Ortiz is due to earn $15 million this year. It’s the highest annual salary of his 17-year career. It also makes him the 61st highest-paid player in baseball for 2014, trailing the likes of Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Buehrle, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Josh Beckett, Hiroki Kuroda, Andre Ethier, Jhonny Peralta, Nick Swisher … well, you get he point. Ortiz has never hit the free-agent jackpot like some of his less-accomplished peers, in part because of lousy timing and probably in part because he’s strictly a designated hitter. Given all that he’s done in his career, especially in his 11 seasons here, it’s understandable that at the very least he’d want, even expect, additional security at the end of his career. The Red Sox are under no obligation to give it to him, of course; if they made an annual habit of tacking on another year to his deal when he already had one remaining, at some point soon they would end up paying him for a performance he was no longer capable of providing. But if you can’t understand his frustration with the situation, consider this: the Red Sox have paid him roughly $111 million so far. They have received $151.5 million in value, according to Fangraphs. Everyone loves a bargain — that is, except for the guy working at the discount.
2. I suppose it’s a nod to his dedication and the seriousness with which he’s taking his career that Will Middlebrooks put on 15 pounds or so of muscle this offseason. But I do wonder how necessary it was — the power was already there. What he really needed to was find a way to extend his arms by a foot to reach those dastardly sliders away.
3. One more time: I hope Stephen Drew returns to the Red Sox under the It’s Good To Have Lots Of Good Players theory. If Middlebrooks falters — and the staunch Don’t Bring Back Drew crowd conveniently dismisses this as a possibility — I’m not thrilled about Jonathan Herrera getting regular playing time. He’s basically Pedro Ciriaco with a good glove. I also cannot believe the Yankees haven’t signed Drew to play somewhere in their abysmal infield. And I promise that’s the last time I’ll reiterate that until Scott Boras makes up his damned mind and lets Drew know where he’ll be playing this year.
4. Of all of the Red Sox’ young pitchers on the verge, the one I’m most interested to see this spring already has a little bit of big league experience. Allen Webster pitched eight games for the Red Sox last season, and the results weren’t good: an 8.60 ERA in 30.1 innings, with 18 walks and 7 homers allowed. Three truths were particularly evident: He has excellent stuff (he did strikeout 23 batters); his control and command were unacceptable; and he looked aware of every one of the 75,000 eyeballs staring at him. Provided he’s more comfortable on the mound and in the spotlight of a big league mound, maybe the faith in his stuff will improve as well.
5. Some Yankees fans have an annoying if understandable habit of zeroing in on another team’s superstars when one of their own is about to move on. And so it is that you can’t mention Derek Jeter‘s pending final season to a pinstriped loyalist without a return volley suggesting that the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki should and quite possibly could be his successor. Unfortunately, it actually makes some sense beyond the fact that Jeter is Tulowitzki’s idol and the reason he wears No. 2. Tulowitzki is due to earn $130 million between now and 2020, his age-35 season. The Rockies have finished an average of 23 games out of first place the last three years. He’s a wonderful player, but it might be wise to move him for a jackpot — meaning prospects and/or cash — at some point. The Yankees don’t have much to offer in the form of the former, but they can certainly take on that deal.
6. I imagine the Red Sox will be appropriately cautious with Grady Sizemore, a low-risk, high-reward signing if there ever was one, even if he’s as brittle as a fine porcelain tea cup. But the more I consider all he’s gone through the past several seasons, including the past two in which he didn’t play a single game, the more I wonder if its tempting fate to even consider him as a center fielder at this point. They need to find out what he can do and what his legs can handle without pushing his limits before even considering having him play such a challenging position.
8. Don’t know about you, but I get a kick out of that new rite of spring in the social media age — beat writers posting fuzzy photos on Twitter from the first few days of spring workouts. The pictures are hardly suitable for framing, and you get the sense some of these wannabe Walter Iooss Jrs. are still using rudimentary flip phones. But tweeted pics with such captions as “A.J. Pierzynski in the house” have become a modern sign of spring, a pixelated confirmation that baseball is back. Cool by me.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
Happy belated 47th to John Valentin, who ate some barbells Middlebrooks-style between his Hyannis Mets days and his exceptional 1995 season, when he hit 27 homers and 37 doubles, stole 20 bases, reached base at a .399 clip, and put up a .931 OPS while playing a steady shortstop. Teammate Mo Vaughn won the AL MVP award. Albert Belle probably should have, but Valentin had a real case — he was second to Randy Johnson in bWAR among American Leaguers at 8.3.
Follow Chad Finn on Twitter at @GlobeChadFinn.