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Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Let it play out’ with David Ortiz

12.18.13 at 1:09 pm ET
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ESPN’s Buster Olney checked in with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday for a Hot Stove update and a discussion about David Ortiz‘s future.

Ortiz has one more year remaining on his contract, and he recently said he would like to get an extension.

“From a cold-hearted, sitting-in-the-front-office point of view, it’s a no-brainer. You let it play out, and you see what Ortiz does this year before you make the next deal,” Olney said. “And then the reality is, I’m sure the Red Sox, they certainly value David. And they’re always going to be the team that brings him in after he retires for all the old-timers days and different days and throw out the first pitch, and he’ll do all that. But I’m sure that, again, if you’re a cold-hearted Red Sox executive you’re probably thinking, too, ‘You know what, he’s as tied to us as we are to him. And we’re probably going to offer him the best deal of any team because of the history.’ So, you’re going to want to wait and see what happens.

“Now, midseason 2014, if he’s raking still, then yeah, at that point you probably engage and talk about an extension. But I’m guessing they’re going to want to see, just because of the fact that just a few years ago they were talking about releasing him in May, internally.”

Added Olney: “I can’t remember which year it was, but I know that they were concerned about at that time his performance against left-handed pitching. ‘€¦ I think it was the time he was platooning with Mike Lowell as the DH, and he was struggling really badly and his performance was going down. I remember that May that there was a conversation in the organization about whether or not that was the right thing to do. And then he bounced back and he started hitting the ball to left field.”

Olney compared Ortiz’s situation to that in New York, where Derek Jeter‘s value is higher to the Yankees to any other team.

The Yankees have a parallel situation going on with Derek Jeter, where in their negotiations, and just like with David, there have been some tense moments between the team and the player,” Olney said. “I’m sure David feels the way that Derek does, where Derek can’t really imagine that he’s ever going to leave the Yankees; he’s said that. Ortiz I’m sure envisions that he’s going to finish his career with the Red Sox. And the reality is ‘€¦ there are not a lot of teams right now that are employing full-time DHs. So, they would probably pay him more.”

Olney explained that Jeter was able to get a boost in his last contract by making his case directly to the team’s owners. Olney said Ortiz might be wise to take the same approach, because the bottom-line baseball ops staff likely won’t give in to sentimentality.

“I think that’s what it will come down to. If David’s going to make his plea for an extension before 2014, I think his best case would be made directly with the owners,” Olney said. “Because I think you’re the baseball ops, you do the smart thing and you recommend that you wait to see what he is in 2014.”

The market has mostly been quiet regarding starting pitchers, and Olney said it likely will stay that away until the situation with Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka gets some clarity.

“I think in general, the starting pitching market is being held up by what’s going on with Masihiro Tanaka, because he’s the No. 1 guy on the board,” Olney said. “So, if you’re in the group of second-tier guys, you’re Ervin Santana, you’re Ubaldo Jimenez, you need his situation to be resolved.

“I’m sure that for Tampa Bay, marketing David Price, the teams they’re talking with, some of them are probably saying, ‘You know what, we want to take out shot with the free agent Tanaka rather than trade some prospects away. So, I think some of that is being held up.

“Now, on the position player side, [Shin-Soo] Choo‘s out there, and Nelson Cruz is out there, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales are out there. I think it’s kind of what you see is what you get. And the question is how many teams are willing to spend money.

“I had a GM say to me yesterday that it’s interesting that it’s almost like when you leave the winter meetings — you’ve got Christmas coming up and you have New Year’s coming up — there are some teams that go into hibernation for a couple of weeks, and that can be frustrating for the agents.”

Tanaka appears to be in line for a huge payday, more than initially anticipated, with Olney saying he hears the pitcher would prefer to play on the West Coast.

“I was surprised,” Olney said. “Based on what I heard during the summer, I was hearing No. 2-type starter, I was thinking [$]80 [million], $85 million dollars. But I had some GMs say to me yesterday they think he’s going to get over $100 million.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: buster olney, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Masahiro Tanaka
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