New England millennials were minding their own business, going about their day Tuesday when Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports dropped this bomb on the last bit of their childhood.
Sources: David Ortiz will retire at end of 2016 season.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 17, 2015
On Wednesday, Ortiz made it official in a video posted via The Players' Tribune website.
So here we are. David Ortiz is retiring. It's really happening.
This will surely ignite another round of debate regarding Ortiz's Hall of Fame candidacy, which we detailed not too long ago. Here's a short version: As perhaps the most important figure in the history of the Red Sox, Ortiz should probably get in, though his numbers aren't quite those of a shoo-in Hall of Famer.
Instead, let's focus here on another bold-ish proclamation: Ortiz's pending retirement -- specifically the timing of it, with respect to both where he is physically and where the Red Sox are on the calendar -- is his last* gift to the Red Sox.
*pending Ortiz's swan song and the goings-on of the 2016 season. He's always had a flair for the dramatic, you know.
First, the where-he-is-physically part. Ortiz's 2015 was borderline ridiculous for a 39-year-old. He slashed .273/.360/.553 for an adjusted OPS 40 percent better than league-average. He hit 37 home runs, his highest total since he hit 54 in 2006 (almost a decade ago!). He played in 146 games, a number he hasn't topped since 2009. It was his ninth season as a 3-win player (per Baseball Reference's WAR) and his ninth season -- and third in a row -- posting 30 homers and 100 RBIs. It was enough to guarantee a $16 million salary in '16.
Clearly, Ortiz still has it. Things can deteriorate in a hurry, to be sure, but by announcing his exit now Ortiz is going out on his own terms, before his skills decline and the game pushes him out. Maybe it's a pride thing, to retire while you can still perform. Maybe he's just tired. Either way, he's doing the Red Sox a huge favor by not hanging on too long. He will not risk hamstringing the team that gave him a chance when the Twins cut him loose 13 years ago. That's in direct contrast to, say, a Derek Jeter, who in his final two (injury-influenced) years (between which he announced his retirement) slashed .250/.302/.307 with a 73 OPS+, a combined -0.5 WAR and poor defense.
Maybe we should have seen this early announcement coming. Ortiz's seemingly annual or biennial complaints about wanting a new contract drew the ire of some, but now, knowing that he's turning down a $10 million-plus club option for 2017, it's easy to frame that as a desire to reduce uncertainty, as opposed to driven strictly by greed. Uncertainty is no fun. During those Spring Trainings, when Ortiz was entering the final year or two of his deal and started to pipe up, what he wanted was a sure future. Now, he's granting himself -- not to mention the Red Sox -- the same.
That brings us to the second part, the Red-Sox-on-the-calendar part. It's November. Ortiz is going to play next season. He could have waited an entire year to announce his retirement, and nobody could have knocked him. But the didn't. This allows Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his underlings to better plan for the future.
The roster machinations stemming from Ortiz's retirement are pretty straightforward. Do your best with shortstop-turned-outfielder-turned-first-baseman Hanley Ramirez at his new position in 2016, then move him to DH for the final two (or three, with the option vests) years of his contract, the unofficial plan since the club signed him a year ago.
Ramirez could be the perfect stopgap until Sam Travis is ready in 2017. Travis was a second-round pick in the 2014 Draft and is the club's No. 9 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. He's 22 and hit .321/.376/.476 in the Arizona Fall League, a proving ground for top prospects.
It's weird to think about Hanley the DH and Travis the maybe big leaguer and those 2017 Red Sox lineups. Ortiz's name will be missing from the batting order, his presence from Fenway. It'll be strange.
Thanks to Ortiz, though, at least we have time to get used to the idea.