Ortiz nabs four-year extension

Updated: April 11, 2006, 5:39 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- David Ortiz agreed to a $52 million, four-year contract extension with the Boston Red Sox on Monday rather than explore the free-agent market next year.

David Ortiz
Ortiz

The deal keeps his powerful bat, bright smile and sharp wit in Boston's clubhouse without the possibility of him departing after the 2007 season, when Ortiz could have become a free agent. But he loves Boston and didn't want to be besieged by suitors.

"You have a lot of people coming right at you," he said during a news conference at Fenway Park. "I feel this is my house and I've got to protect this house."

The designated hitter was in the last year of a $12.5 million, two-year extension he signed in May 2004. That deal called for a $6.5 million salary this year and gave Boston an option for 2007 that was currently valued at $8.4 million with a $1.4 million buyout.

His new agreement includes a $2 million signing bonus payable in three installments this year, keeps this year's salary the same and adds annual salaries of $12.5 million from 2007-10. The Red Sox get a $12.5 million option for 2011 with no buyout.

"I want to finish my career as a Red Sox player," Ortiz said. "I'm going to be around for a while. I'm pretty sure New England is going to take this as good news."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein certainly did.

"I can't think of a player who contributes in so many ways," Epstein said. "He's a guy with a smile on his face. He sets the right mood for the team in our clubhouse. ... It was just an easy decision for us" to give the extension.

Had Ortiz become a free agent, Epstein said the player would have had a lot of options "that would have made it difficult for him to stay in Boston."

Epstein said the new deal was 98 percent complete during spring training.

Since Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003 as a free agent from the Minnesota Twins, he and Manny Ramirez have developed into perhaps baseball's top power duo. Ortiz led the AL with 148 RBI last year.

They combined for 68 homers in 2003, 84 in 2004 and 92 in 2005, when Ortiz's career-best 47 were one fewer than New York's Alex Rodriguez, the AL leader. Ortiz and Ramirez became the first teammates in major-league history to each have 40 homers and 40 doubles in one season in 2004. Last year, they totaled 292 RBI.

Ortiz is one of Boston's clubhouse leaders, smiling and joking with teammates. He is also one of baseball's top clutch hitters, leading the league last year with 21 game-winning RBI, while 19 of his homers gave the Red Sox a tie or the lead.

In Boston's first six games this season, five of them wins, Ortiz has one homer, four RBI and a .292 batting average. The Red Sox had Monday off before Tuesday's home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Since joining the Red Sox, Ortiz has been the most productive addition at the plate since John Henry became owner in 2002 and Epstein took over as general manager in 2003.

Ortiz was fifth in the AL MVP voting in 2003 and fourth in 2004 before finishing second to Rodriguez in a tight vote last year.

In those three seasons, Ortiz leads the majors with 388 RBI and is second with a .600 slugging percentage and fourth with 119 homers.

In the previous six years in the Twins organization, Ortiz spent just two full seasons in the majors, hitting .282 with 10 homers and 63 RBI in 2000 and .272 with 20 homers and 75 RBI in 2002.

In 2004, Ortiz hit 41 homers with 139 RBI and a .301 average in 150 games. Last season, he batted .300 in 159 games. His 47 homers were second in Red Sox history to Jimmie Foxx's 50 in 1938.

Ortiz says he embraces the intensity in baseball-crazed Boston.

"If you don't want to be famous, just step away," he said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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