Ortiz signed a two-year extension for $26 million after the 2012 season, the value increasing to $30 million by virtue of him being on the disabled list for fewer than 20 days, kicking in an additional $4 million performance clause. The $15 million he is due to be paid this year ranks as the second-highest salary on the team behind Mike Napoli, who signed a two-year, $32 million deal as a free agent last December.
The Red Sox took a much greater risk with that contract, given the serious nature of Ortiz's injury, than they are now. The Red Sox are well-positioned financially to absorb Ortiz's extension. They have just $62.6 million in guaranteed contract obligations in 2015, a number that drops to $13.3 million in 2016.
The Red Sox also are expected to have a number of low-paid players in key positions who won't even be eligible for salary arbitration in 2015 -- three positional starters in Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks, possibly a rookie catcher (Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez), and any young pitchers that make the jump to the big leagues.
Overall, the industry is flush with cash, reflected by the fact that teams spent more than $2 billion on just over 100 free agents this winter. National television revenues have increased dramatically, and the Red Sox gave themselves financial flexibility when they shed the enormous multiyear commitments they had made to Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett by trading them to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Red Sox also are negotiating with left-hander Jon Lester on a multiyear extension, with Lester expressing this weekend that he believes progress is being made.
Ortiz is a player whose contributions have had an untold impact on the value of the franchise, first and foremost as a player who has been part of all three of this century's World Series winners (2004, 2007 and 2013). His exalted place in the community was demonstrated most dramatically last April, in the team's first game after the Boston Marathon bombings, when he was designated as the player to address the crowd at Fenway Park and elicited a huge response with his defiant declaration that "This is our f----- city."
What is the likelihood that Ortiz will maintain a high level of performance through the 2017 season? There are 24 players who have hit 25 or more home runs in a season from age 38 on, according to baseball-reference.com. That number drops to 18 from the age of 39 on, and to seven from 40 on.
Only two Red Sox players have ever done so, and both are in the Hall of Fame. Ted Williams did it three times, hitting 38 home runs at age 38, 30 at age 39, and 29 at age 41. Tony Perez, who spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, hit 25 at age 38 in 1980.
Ortiz has a lifetime OPS of .930. He exceeded that last season, when he posted a .959 OPS. There have been 17 players 38 years old or older who have had a .900 or better OPS in seasons in which they made at least 400 plate appearances. Seven of those players have played in the last 15 years -- Matt Stairs, Barry Bonds (three times), Frank Thomas, Moises Alou, Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines.
All except Bonds and Alou did so while serving primarily as designated hitters. Baines and Bonds are the only players to do so as 40-year-olds.