According to a local Boston television interview, Red Sox DH David Ortiz is looking for a multi-year extension to stay with Boston, saying that "it would be time to move on" if he didn't get a long-term offer from the Red Sox, according to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.
Ortiz turned 38 in November, but the long-time Red Sox DH had fine year in 2013, hitting .309/.395/.564 with 30 home runs in 600 plate appearances while helping the Red Sox to their third World Championship during his tenure with the team. But that 2013 season is looking more and more like an outlier as Ortiz ages – it was only his second 30 homer season in the last six years. He hasn't cracked 4.0 fWAR since the 2007 season. He's played in 150 games just once in the last six years, and hasn't broke the 650 plate appearance mark since that 2007 season.
None of those numbers are really surprising. After all, Ortiz turned 32 in November of 2007, the age when many players begin to turn into a pumpkin. But even an aging, broken down Ortiz is pretty good – Ortiz's 165 homers since 2008 are 13th-most in all of baseball (tied with Alfonso Soriano), and his .386 wOBA is tenth, just a hair behind Jose Bautista (a pretty good hitter with injury issues in his own right).
But DHs don't have much of a shelf life past 38, Ortiz's age going into 2014. Frank Thomas was a legitimate MVP candidate at 38, a low-ballot MVP candidate at 39, and done at 40. Edgar Martinez, admittedly a dissimilar hitter than Ortiz, was an All-Star at 40 and toast at 41. Jim Thome was a banged up bench player after 37.
Furthermore, it's not as if Ortiz is a middle of the diamond building block for the Red Sox. He's a DH – admittedly a good one, but a DH nonetheless. Great DHs just sort of happen, they aren't really born. The Red Sox signed Ortiz for peanuts after the Twins nontendered him over a decade ago. The Blue Jays got Edwin Encarnacion, who is also logging time at first base for Toronto, from the Reds as part of a package for Scott Rolen (and they nearly lost Encarnacion on waivers to the Athletics the next winter). Edgar Martinez was shifted from third base to DH full-time in 1995, and transformed into one of the best hitters in the game at 32. Guys like Billy Butler, who are almost immediately earmarked as a DH, are the exception rather than the rule.
The market for Ortiz might not be as robust as he's assuming, either. Kendrys Morales hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers last year, and can't even get a nibble because of the draft pick compensation tied to him. If teams aren't willing to give up a draft pick and that sort of money for Morales, who just turned 30 in June, what makes Ortiz think a team would be willing to do so for him when he turns 39 next November?
I think a lot of what happens with Ortiz depends on his 2014 season. If Ortiz's production takes a step back in 2014 and his nagging injuries continue to linger, I don't think Boston will be bringing him back for 2015. Yet at the same time, I don't think the Red Sox will be willing to offer him more than two years even if he's an MVP candidate once again next season – taking him beyond his age 40 season at eight figures a year is a move too outlandish even for the Red Sox and their deep pockets.