Papi: 'This is the place I want to be'
New deal assures Boston will remain Ortiz's city through end of career
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Call it the crowning contract in the marvelous career of David Ortiz, the one that will assure Boston remains his city for the rest of his playing days.
"In my case, this is the place I want to be," said Ortiz. "This is the place that I know. And now knowing that as long as I'm healthy and as long as I'm good to go, I'm going to be playing here, it's just less stress."
And for the Red Sox, they look forward to watching Ortiz continue to torment opposing pitchers.
"We feel great that this virtually guarantees that David will finish his career with the Red Sox," said general manager Ben Cherington. "And more importantly, probably to the three of us up here, I know for [manager] John [Farrell] and myself, we feel great that it means that David's going to be in the middle of our lineup for longer. And that's really important to us."
The deal, which was finalized on Sunday night and formalized with a news conference on Monday in Sarasota, is a one-year extension that will pay Ortiz $16 million in 2015.
But there is also a vesting club option based on plate appearances for 2016 and a straight club option for '17 that could have Big Papi mashing the baseball until he is 41 years old.
It might seem optimistic to think Ortiz can play four more seasons. Then again, who would have envisioned him hitting .688 en route to the Most Valuable Player Award in the World Series at the age of 37?
Ortiz has been surprising the Red Sox since his arrival in 2003, when he was labeled as a platoon player and emerged into an iconic star.
"In a lot of different ways, David is an outlier, an exception to the rule," said Cherington. "There are just aren't many guys that produce at the level that he has to this point in their career. You can't really look at it as you would normally. Even as it relates to a contract discussion, you have to look at it differently."
Ortiz has some accomplishments that are unparalleled in club history. Big Papi is the only Red Sox player since 1918 to win three World Series rings, and he was a driving force in all three title runs.
"What we do know is that we always go off what we've seen most recently, and what we've seen most recently is a guy in 2013, even putting the playoffs aside, even in the regular season, he was one of the best hitters in the league," Farrell said. "We don't have any reason to believe that's not going to continue for some period of time. David takes terrific care of himself. He cares. He's got team goals. He's got personal goals. There's a lot of reasons for him to continue playing."
For Ortiz, the desire to win and produce both remain strong, and that was never more evident than in Game 4 of last year's World Series when he held an in-game speech in the middle of the dugout. Coincidence or not, the Red Sox broke out of their offensive malaise in the ensuing inning, and won the final three games of that Fall Classic.
"I feel great," said Ortiz. "I'm still hungry. I want to keep on winning. Winning is good. You feel great when you go out there and kick some [butt]. That's what I look forward to."
After a series of short-term extensions in recent years, Ortiz's contract will cease to become a topic of the rest of his career.
"I guess you guys get tired of me talking about contract all the time," quipped Ortiz. "At least I'm going to have some time off answering questions and dealing with my contract situation. I'm all about the business of just focusing on baseball. This is a big part of it."
With Ortiz, however, it is more than just about baseball. He means a lot to the community of Boston and won over the heart of the city forever with his impassioned and impromptu speech days after the Boston Marathon bombing.
"He's been here a long time and been a part of some special teams. He's been a huge part of all of it," said Dustin Pedroia. "Leadership. What he does on the field, off the field, all of it. He's one of the main reasons the team has been so successful."
And in the daily life of the Red Sox's clubhouse, Ortiz is the type who pulls players together.
"Well, you walk by, he's got a group around him all the time," said Farrell. "Today is no different than what you see during the season. When he speaks, guys listen. He has such a history of success and different set of experiences that new players come in and they look to him for that sounding board, that comfort zone and certainly a lot of confidence when he's around. He walks in the room and all eyes go to him."
And for the foreseeable future, the eyes of Red Sox Nation will continue to be able to look at No. 34 in the batter's box.
"You guys know how personal I take my time in this organization," said Ortiz. "This organization has been great to me and my family. I'm always proud to wear this uniform and be part of this wonderful organization."