BOSTON — The Red Sox are exercising their $12.5 million option on David Ortiz rather than giving the designated hitter the new multiyear contract he preferred.
The Red Sox didn’t want to commit big money beyond 2011 to a player who turns 35 in two weeks, has had trouble hitting left-handers and rarely plays in the field. Ortiz also has slipped from career-highs of 148 RBIs in 2005, 54 homers in 2006 and a .332 batting average in 2007.
“I talked to him directly and he told me directly that he was cool with it,” Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. “I think, in the end, he realized that we weren’t in a position to give him what he was looking for in a multiyear arrangement.”
Epstein said it was unlikely a multiyear deal still could be worked out with Ortiz, who has gotten off to slow starts in each of the last two seasons.
“We never say never,” Epstein said. “Things could always come up that cause you to turn in a new direction, but I think at this point the feeling is that we’ve explored it. It didn’t work out. Both sides, for a lot of reasons, were fine going to the one-year mechanism that was already built into the contract.”
Ortiz’s past contributions and the fact that he’s a fan favorite contributed to the team’s decision to pick up the option.
“The most important factor of all is that he’s still very productive, arguably the best and most impactful player at his position in the game,” Epstein said.
Ortiz led Boston with 32 homers and tied for the team lead with 102 RBIs this year while batting .270. He also was chosen for his sixth AL All-Star team.
In 2009, he hit just .238, his lowest batting average since he joined Boston before the 2003 season as a free agent from the Minnesota Twins, but had 28 homers and 99 RBIs.
Boston announced it also is exercising its option on reliever Scott Atchison at $40,000 above the minimum, which will be $400,000 plus a cost of living adjustment. He would have received a $10,000 buyout if the team didn’t exercise the option.
The Red Sox declined their $9.25 million option on infielder-outfielder Bill Hall, who gets a $500,000 buyout, and their $2.5 million option on infielder Felipe Lopez, who gets a $15,000 buyout.
Boston also acquired minor-leaguer Brent Dlugach from the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named or cash considerations. Dlugach, who hit .258 at Triple-A Toledo last season, provides infield depth in the organization.
On Wednesday, third baseman Adrian Beltre, Boston’s best hitter this year, declined his $10 million option. He’ll get a $1 million buyout and becomes a free agent after just one season with the Red Sox.
Ortiz and Beltre were two of Boston’s few starting players who weren’t hit hard by injuries. Five opening day starters were sidelined for extended periods. Jacoby Ellsbury was limited to 17 games, Mike Cameron to 48, Dustin Pedroia to 75, Kevin Youkilis to 102 and Victor Martinez to 127.
Through May 11, Ortiz was hitting just .185 with four homers. But by the All-Star break two months later, he was up to .263 with 18 homers and made the AL team for the sixth time.
By the end of the season, he led the Red Sox with 82 walks and tied for ninth in the AL with 69 extra base hits and was eighth in the league in slugging at .529.
Atchison was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 60 innings in his first year with Boston.
Hall played more than expected because of the numerous injuries and had 18 homers and 46 RBIs. Boston signed Lopez on Sept. 25 after he spent most of the season with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Epstein said the Red Sox would love to have Hall back if he can’t find an everyday job or sign with another team.
“He was nothing but a great teammate,” Epstein said.
He also indicated it was unlikely Boston would sign any of its own free agents before the period in which they can only negotiate with the Red Sox ends on Sunday.
That group includes Martinez, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell, who has said he’ll retire.