The Red Sox' decade-long record of avoiding salary arbitration hearings with their players is in intact -- barely.
Hours before the Red Sox were set to go to their first hearing since 2002 (when they beat pitcher Rolando Arrojo), the Red Sox settled with designated hitter David Ortiz Monday morning.
Ortiz and the Sox agreed to a one-year deal worth 14.575 million, the exact midpoint between their two filings. Ortiz had requested 16.5 million, with the Sox countering at 12.65 million, a gulf of nearly 4 million.
The Red Sox' filing surprised some, given that it provided Ortiz, who had the fourth-highest OPS in the American League last year, with a modest 150,000 raise. (Given that Ortiz earned 150,000 in incentives on top of his 12.5 million base salary in 2011, the argument could be made that the Sox weren't offering a raise of any sort.)
Had the case gone to a hearing, a panel of arbitrators would have been forced to choose either one figure or the other, with no room for compromise.
Most settlements, like the one reached Monday, use the mid-point of the two salaries as a settlement figure.
It's unknown what the settlement does to the Red Sox' budget process. Had the Sox gone to the hearing and lost, the nearly 4 million gap between their filing and Ortiz's would have been substantial. Thanks to the settlement, the increase is less than 2 million more, likely giving them at least some flexibility as they continue to search for more starting pitching.
Boston is nominally still involved with free agent Roy Oswalt, for instance, though the two sides have been unable to close a deal.
The Sox had nine players eligible for salary arbitration this off-season, the highest number for the franchise in a number of years. The club avoided hearings in all nine.