Will David Ortiz have National League suitors?

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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?

Maybe.

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.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.