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Rangers may have been interested, but David Ortiz was locked into Red Sox

05.04.13 at 9:47 am ET
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David Ortiz

With just more than 24 hours before any and all major league teams could talk contract with David Ortiz, the free agent designated hitter was getting a bit antsy.

He was secure in knowing that the Red Sox had strong interest in bringing him back, but the two sides still hadn’t agreed to terms and the window of exclusivity was closing.

Then word came down: another team, the Texas Rangers, would be willing to pony up a two-year deal for Ortiz once he hit the open market.

“It was probably true, but you couldn’t talk to anyone,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t know what it was going to be like (if he hit free agency).”

Coincidental or not, the Red Sox came up just enough (what sources suggest was about $1.5 million) following news of the Rangers’ interest, sealing the deal moments before Ortiz could talk contract with the rest of baseball.

Still, the slugger now says that despite the perceived uncertainty, he didn’t have any doubts regarding what the end result would be.

“Not for a minute,” Ortiz said when asked if he had entertained thoughts about playing elsewhere in ’13. “I knew I was going to come back here. [The Red Sox] used an approach that was different than years before. I understood why. They had options before so you can take your time. But this time they knew I was going to be a free agent. They were approaching me (during the ’12 season), even with me being injured. I knew that, so that’s why I wasn’t paying attention to too many things.”

Without Ortiz, the Rangers moved on, first trying to re-sign Mike Napoli and then locking up Lance Berkman for a one-year, $11 million deal (with a club option for ’14).

Berkman has worked out thus far, hitting .305 with an .892 OPS and two home runs. And while the Red Sox’ DH position is far and away tops in the American League with a 1.109 overall OPS, the Rangers’ .813 OPS at the position is certainly palatable.

Ortiz said that while this time around he was fairly locked into re-joining the Red Sox, there have been moments over the past few years when thoughts of playing elsewhere crossed his mind.

“Have I put myself in the situation where I thought I wasn’t going to be here, 100 percent? No,” he said. “I knew this time I had the percentage in my favor, and they showed they wanted me to come back way before the season was over.

“But I did have doubts once. When [former general manager] Theo [Epstein] was here and they had to pick up my option the first time (after the ’11 season), I thought it was going to be something else because they were approaching me with different things at that time. I couldn’t understand. But I ended up coming back.”

Now Ortiz is settled into his two-year deal, which can pay him up to $30 million. For the first time in the past few years, talks of contract aren’t part of the daily thought process. For the DH, it’s a welcome change.

“I’m not thinking of any of that. I’m just thinking of raking. I don’t have any regrets, any hard feels or anything,” he said.

“There are a lot of people hoping you have a down year, and say you’re getting older. But those people don’t realize they still don’t pitch to me, and when they do pitch to me I do what I need to do. It’s not about how old you get, or how people think. It’s about how hard you work and what kind of approach you have.

“That’s why last year when I said, ‘I want two years so I don’t have to think about my contract,’ a lot of people got the wrong idea. They thought I was going to chill, sit back and not do anything. That ain’t me. I like to earn my money. I like to work for it, and as long as I’ve been here that’s what I’ve been doing. I wasn’t going to change. What for? I love the game. I love beating up on the opposition. I love the pain on their face. So why should I stop?”

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