Despite a bit of brinkmanship, the Red Sox will finish the 2012 offseason with their record of avoiding arbitration intact, as Buster Olney is reporting that the team has settled with David Ortiz on a 1-year, $14.575 million contract.
The team was scheduled to have their first arbitration meeting since the Dan Duquette era Monday, with their star designated hitter reportedly submitting a request for $16.5 million to the club's offer of $12.65. The Red Sox' figure would have represented a small raise after a big season for Ortiz, who saw his offensive production return to levels unseen since his wrist injury in 2008, while Ortiz sought a pay hike commensurate with his jump in performance.
After many quiet years with the team, Ortiz' contract has become a point of contention in recent offseasons. After a dip in performance in 2008 and 2009, the team has been hesitant to offer Ortiz the multi-year contract he's expressed interest in. With the combination of a resurgent 2011 and a salary already unusually high given the non-existent market for designated hitters, the Sox seemed prepared to finally go to the table this year, but apparently both sides thought better of it. Had it come down to the decision of an arbitrator, the result would have set a record for arbitration cases regardless of which side won; others such as Tim Lincecum have had higher offers in the past, but like Ortiz chose to settle rather than go to arbitration.
With Ortiz' contract now out of the way, the question becomes what impact the $14.575 million figure has on Boston's budget. Does the added $2 million over the top of their offer top out the payroll, or does it free up $2 million for use elsewhere--say, on a Roy Oswalt? We'll have to wait and see.