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Will David Ortiz have National League suitors?

Oct 30, 2011, 1:23 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Getty Images

The general assumption is that free agent slugger David Ortiz will only get offers from American League teams this winter. He hasn’t played more than 10 games at first base since the 2004 season, and even then he had poor range defensively.

But what if Ortiz commits to getting in great shape over the offseason, a la Lance Berkman, and attempts to turn himself into an everyday fielder?

Would National League teams sacrifice the defense to add a middle-of-the-order bat like Big Papi’s?


Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke to several talent evaluaors and front office executives from both sides of the baseball universe, and a couple of them were optimistic about the idea. From an NL East GM:

“I think more and more teams will look into it. To have that kind of bat in the middle of an NL lineup at relatively short years and money for that type of production might be worth the deficiency you’d have at first base. You could always replace him in the late innings. I think he can handle the position in terms of balls hit at him. It’s just the range would be limited. Teams have those types of players even now.”

From an unnamed American League team president:

“You’d have to know he could make the routine play, catch the ball, and you’d have to be able to live with limited range and that most of the time he’s not going to save your infielders from errors on bad throw. If you can live with it and you feel the upside with his power far surpasses the defensive deficiencies, then you take the gamble. And there’s always the possibility that the more comfortable he gets out there, the better he’ll be.’’

Without a reliable sample size, defensive metrics rating Ortiz’s more recent play at first base can’t really be trusted. So there’s no way to predict or quantify whether the dip in defense could be made up at the plate.

Our initial thought is that it would be too risky to even try, but what if the American League market for Ortiz isn’t producing big bids? If the salary commitment is low enough, the notion gets a little less frightening.

  1. Kyle - Oct 30, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

  2. halladaysbiceps - Oct 30, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    It seems to me that the unnamed NL East GM is Sandy Alderson. Sounds like something he would say and would play into his low risk/high reward philosophy.

    As far as an NL team taking a chance on Ortiz playing 1st base, they would have to be pretty desperate for help there. Even the Phillies, who may miss Ryan Howard for half of the season or more recouping from achilles surgery, would not take a chance with his glove at first, as this team relies on great defense with it’s starting pitching.

    The only NL team that may be desperate enough would be the Giants, as they need the most offensive improvement of any team in the NL.

  3. presidentmiraflores - Oct 30, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    It is hard to imagine Big Papi getting into great shape over the off-season.

  4. yankeesgameday - Oct 30, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Whoever that nl gm is was just giving a political answer. There us no upside to thus for an nl team because if you plan on pulling him in later innings that means you lose his bat too. So now you have a weaker hitter batting 3rd in a presumably close game and you’re paying ortiz 10 million for two at bats per game and can’t risk keeping him in the game late…when it really counts?

    The only real reason an nl team would do this is if they have zero plans on contending next year and just want to increase some ticket sales. New York Mets, I’m looking in your general direction.

    • clydeserra - Oct 30, 2011 at 3:05 PM

      But isn’t that what NL baseball is all about, Statergery and such?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 30, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      There us no upside to thus for an nl team because if you plan on pulling him in later innings that means you lose his bat too

      There’s plenty of upside to do this. The guy was one of the best hitters in the league last year, with a triple slash of .309/.398/.544 (154 OPS+, 7th in MLB in wOBA at .405 and tied for 9th in wRC at 153).

      • yankeesgameday - Oct 30, 2011 at 4:28 PM

        Quote the whole comment: you’d lose him in the late innings in a close game when his bat would matter to you most.

      • gregwanson - Oct 30, 2011 at 5:35 PM

        Actually, offensive production counts exactly as much in inning 1 as it does in inning 9.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 30, 2011 at 5:55 PM

        Quote the whole comment: you’d lose him in the late innings in a close game when his bat would matter to you most.

        Well for one, he’s never graded out badly at first base. He’s generally been -1.0 UZR (1+/-) for most of his career. The sample size isn’t great (<2000IP total), but people act like he's Adam Dunn part 2.

        Also, you mentioned you'd only get him for 2 ABs. Are you pulling him in the 5th or 6th inning? if you pull him in the 9th most likely he's received 3-4 ABs.

  5. bostonhasrealhockey - Oct 30, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    This is going to be one interesting offseason

  6. pftisahalftruth - Oct 30, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Papi could come right to Milwaukee and not miss a beat filling the spot left behind by the defensively (WAY) below average Fielder.

  7. romoscollarbone - Oct 30, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    The last time I remember Ortiz playing some 1B his glove was so neglected a routine ground ball went right thru the pocket.

  8. uyf1950 - Oct 30, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Just don’t see it in the cards. I figure the Sox will offer him a 2 year deal at $20 to 25M total. I can’t see any NL team interested in him at either those dollars or those years, based on his “defensive” skill set.

  9. baseballisboring - Oct 30, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    I think his health concerns me more than his defense. He’s older, has had knee trouble, and isn’t used to playing the field every day. If you had a 2nd baseman with good range, and Papi could manage to make the routine plays, I think it’d be well worth it to stick his bat in the middle of your lineup. Just depends on if his body holds up, and how much it costs.

  10. paperlions - Oct 30, 2011 at 7:53 PM

    Getting into great shape doesn’t suddenly mean you can play defense…there are plenty of guys in “great shape” that still are horrible fielders. Ortiz has NEVER been a good fielder…if he came back in better shape, he’d just be a thinner crappy fielder than if he didn’t get in better shape.

  11. Jonny 5 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    Papi will be in the al until he retires. That is all.

  12. jackrabbit56 - Oct 30, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    “It seems to me that the unnamed NL East GM is Sandy Alderson.”

    If the Mets are actually considering this, I have twp words for them: Mo Vaughn.

  13. mqcarpenter - Oct 30, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Surely no NL team is this stupid right?

    • henryd3rd - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      Can you spell Marlins? Big Papi would be perfect in Miami. He’s a great PR machine and the one thing the Marlins need is good PR after the years of wandering in the wilderness of negativity. Plus they already started their circus act by hiring Ozzie as their manager. Its a perfect fit for him here and what better place to end one’s career then here in South Florida.

  14. aaronmoreno - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    I recall that the Red Sox considered Papi’s defense “a danger to himself and others.”

    No NL team is taking the chance on a heavyset 36 year old who probably hasn’t even practiced at the position in seven years, let alone play it.

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