DALLAS — It’s official, David Ortiz has accepted salary arbitration from the Red Sox, according to a team source. That binds him to the team for 2012 with at least a one-year contract.
The sides can continue to work on a multi-year deal up until conceivably February. If no deal gets done, Ortiz would be signed for one year at a salary determined by the two sides or one selected by a three-person panel.
Given that Ortiz made $12.5 million in 2011 and posted a .309/.398 /.554 season, he would be due at least $14 million for 2012.
It is not a perfect solution for either side. Ortiz preferred the security of a multi-year contract while the Red Sox wanted to bring him back at a smaller salary.
But the overriding issue was that Ortiz wanted to return and the Red Sox wanted him back for a 10th season.
The Red Sox have spent recent days trying to hammer out a two-year deal with Ortiz. But the slugger sought $25 million over two seasons and the team’s offer was significantly short of that, according to sources involved in the process.
Negotiations can continue in the weeks ahead, although indications were tonight that Ortiz is content with a one-year contract at a significant raise. If the sides cannot agree on a salary, an arbitration panel would decide the matter in February.
The Red Sox have not had to take that step with a player since 2002.
Ortiz, who turned 36 last month, hit .309 with 40 doubles, 29 home runs, and 96 RBIs last season. He was the most productive designated hitter in the game and stayed healthy, playing in 146 games.
Ortiz was an All-Star, earned the Silver Slugger, and today won the Edgar Martinez Outstanding DH Award for the sixth time in his career. Ortiz is fifth in team history with 320 home runs and sixth with 1,028 RBIs.
But for all his accomplishments, there was a limited market for Ortiz. As a Type A free agent, any team that signed him would have forfeited a draft pick to the Red Sox as compensation. Ortiz’s age and lack of versatility also diminished his value.
The Yankees long have been seen as a possible suitor for Ortiz because of his left-handed swing tailored for Yankee Stadium and its short right-field porch. But general manager Brian Cashman focused his attention on other needs.
The Red Sox pushed Ortiz to the back burner during their lengthy search for a new manager, aggravating the slugger. But those concerns vanished over the weekend when new manager Bobby Valentine visited Ortiz in the Dominican Republic and passed on the message that the Sox wanted him back.
Ortiz was flattered by the gesture and soon saw the merit of accepting arbitration.
“That speaks to me,” Ortiz said after meeting with Valentine. “I’m impressed. That’s good stuff.”
Several teams now view the DH as a spot best used to give position players a break from playing the field. Others use low-cost veterans. But the Red Sox value the idea of Ortiz being in the middle of their lineup.
“I think it’s all a matter of how good that traditional, thumping DH is,” general manager Ben Cherington said earlier this week “If he’s putting up the kind of numbers that David has, that’s a good solution. If it’s less than that, then there’s some advantage to handling that a different way. I think it just depends on how good the hitter is.”
For the Red Sox, Ortiz fit that definition. The only downside will be whether his salary for 2012 cuts into Cherington’s ability to improve the roster in other areas.
UPDATE: The MLB Players Association and the Red Sox have issued statements saying Ortiz officially accepted.