During the All-Star game media session impending free agent David Ortiz told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he wants the Red Sox to give him a two-year contract extension with an third-year option.
Silverman kindly writes that Ortiz “is a couple of years beyond the age when the Red Sox normally get extremely gun-shy about committing to players for the long term.”
I’ll put it in much simpler terms: Not happening.
Ortiz is having a fantastic season, hitting .304 with 19 homers in 87 games for a .965 OPS that ranks fourth among AL hitters, but he’s also a 36-year-old designated hitter and as we’ve seen in recent years with Jim Thome, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Vladimir Guerrero, Frank Thomas, Johnny Damon, and others those guys have a hard enough time securing one-year contracts, let alone multi-year commitments.
Ortiz has made it very clear that he’d like to remain in Boston beyond this season and if he stays healhty and productive in the second half the Red Sox would probably be willing to give him the same $12.5 million salary for 2012, but as Silverman points out the front office already balked at Ortiz’s proposed multi-year extension during the offseason and a strong first half seems unlikely to alter their stance significantly.
Perhaps one of the other 13 AL teams might be willing to make a big offer to Ortiz as a free agent, but he might also find that a one-year, $12.5 million deal looks pretty good for a 36-year-old DH on the open market. Thome, for instance, hit .283 with 25 homers and a 1.039 OPS in 108 games for the Twins last season and ended up re-signing for just $3 million after shopping around. Guerrero hit .300 with 29 homers and an .841 OPS in 152 games for the Rangers and eventually accepted a one-year, $8 million deal from the Orioles.
The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.
Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.
Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.
By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.
If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:
Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.
Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.
Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”
So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.