The comparison has more to do with aesthetics and reality than it does production and status, but David Ortiz will be in a similar position for his free agency with the Red Sox this winter as Derek Jeter was with the Yankees last winter.
In Jeter’s case, the negotiations grew contentious because no one believed—accurately—that Jeter would ever leave the Yankees. That the Yankees were going to overpay in both dollars and years to keep him was clear. His 3000th hit being in sight contributed mightily to this consensus.
Jeter wasn’t going anywhere because the Yankees couldn’t let him go anywhere and no other team was willing to be used as a false bargaining chip to pad his paycheck further.
Ortiz is different in his perception as a Boston icon. He’s not Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams or even Jim Rice and Roger Clemens. He’s been a great player for them, but he’s taken great advantage of the Big Papi persona and being a Red Sox leader on and off the field to gain endorsements, write books and make a lot of extra money. He won’t want to sully that by willfully departing over a contract.
Another concern would be the factor of the venue change.
Would Ortiz be as productive playing for another team (and it’d have to be an American League team because he can’t play the field) as he’s been for the Red Sox?
It’s easily forgotten that Ortiz was a limited player for the Twins who would never have achieved these heights had he stayed in Minnesota. He was non-tendered by the Twins, but it wasn’t a shocking decision given his moderate production. He was a pretty good player. That’s it. Ortiz wasn’t someone you’d express deep reservations about letting go because no one could have foreseen what he became. Back then, you could find someone to hit 20 homers and drive in 80 runs for a much cheaper price than what Ortiz was due to get in arbitration.
The Red Sox picked him up as an extra bat and got an MVP candidate and cultural hero.
The most prominent difference between Ortiz and Jeter is the ruthlessness of the teams involved. The Yankees weren’t going to let Jeter leave; the Red Sox wouldn’t hesitate to tell Ortiz to take a hike if things grew testy and dragged out.
The Red Sox can get by just fine without David Ortiz.
Can Ortiz get by without the Red Sox?
I say no.
So his clear irritation at the lack of a contract extension notwithstanding, he’s not leaving because no one’s going to pay him like the Red Sox will; he won’t produce as he has in Boston anywhere else; and the offers he receives will be limited because of the Jeter-like perception that he’s not taking off his Red Sox uniform unless they rip it off his back.
Since he can still hit, that’s not going to happen. He’s staying with the Red Sox. Period.