It's not even Christmas. We get it.
There are still 60 days before pitchers and catchers report, and then a whole season in between when David Ortiz's and Jon Lester's contracts expire. There is still team-building to be done for the 2014 team, and extension talks will certainly be on the docket before Opening Day.
But it's not too early to offer a reminder.
Waiting until the last minute on these two might a dangerous thing for these Red Sox.
The springboard for the most recent discussion regarding contract extensions could be found at Ortiz's charity golf tournament in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The designated hitter not only used the moment to make it clear he had started the process of talking with the Red Sox about a new deal, but also surfaced somewhat of a sense of urgency.
“We gave them what they wanted. I don’t have next year guaranteed, and I think I can play another one. We’re working on that,” he said. “Who knows? As long as I feel good I’m going to want to play. I think everybody is in good shape to negotiate another year and move on.”
When asked if he would want to wait until the end of the season to renegotiate another year, Ortiz said, “What for? You know what’s going to happen if I’m healthy and good to go. I just hate the situation where I have to sit down at the end of the year and talk about my following year. Let’s do it now. We’re world champs right now.”
So why utter these words now? It's not complicated.
After what Ortiz did in '13 -- both in the regular season and postseason -- uncovering the slugger's value is as easy as popping in the Red Sox' highlight reel for their World Series run. His .959 OPS during the first 162 games was better than his Saturday afternoon lunch-mate (Edwin Encarnacion) or the new $240 million man (Robinson Cano). And then there was that .688 batting average in the final six games of season.
He also isn't blind to the latest contract given out by the Red Sox, a two-year, $32 million deal handed to Mike Napoli. The first baseman is six years younger than Ortiz, but he can't guarantee numbers better than the DH for the next two years. And that's the way the Sox' co-leader looks at it -- despite age, there's a very real possibility that Ortiz will do as much, if not more, damage than the guy to whom they just gave $1 million more a year over the next couple of seasons than what the 38-year-old is asking.
As for Lester, the topic of his next contract popped up after he became the next biggest free agent decision for the Red Sox once Jacoby Ellsbury jumped to the Yankees.
"Obviously, it’s crossed my mind. But it’s not something that’s really set in for me yet. I feel like I’ve got one more year here and we’ll go from there,” Lester said on the Hot Stove Show (click here to listen to the audio). “I’m sure there will be some form of communication [with the Red Sox about a new contract], I would imagine probably in spring training, hopefully in spring training, and hopefully during the season sometime if not in spring training.
"Obviously, Boston’s my home. This is all I’ve known. This is all I’ve become accustomed to, and all I want to know. My family enjoys it up there. I enjoy playing up there. There’s a lot of factors in it. At the same time, kind of like Jacoby, there’s a business side of everything and you’ve got to look at it that way. Same thing with the Red Sox. Sometimes you have to part ways. Hopefully, that’s not the case when it comes down to us here in the future."
Lester and the Red Sox will likely start talking extension in ernest during spring training, with a similar scenario awaiting Ortiz.
But hanging back too long -- potentially leading to free agency for one or both of the subjects -- is a risky path for these Red Sox. While there is a plan in place for turnover, and the organization has certainly shown a willingness to move on from the glory days, these two players' skill sets might suggest a slightly different approach.
The Red Sox might very well be happy to take the paint-by-numbers approach, wait out Ortiz's '14 to make sure there are no physical setbacks, attach what will be probably be a qualifying offer worth about $15 million on the DH and bank on Ortiz not wanting to pick up and leave. They also might take their chances with Lester, knowing the likes of Henry Owens represents the possibility of a top-of-the-rotation replacement, while also realizing the staff ace seemingly values stability over chasing every last dollar.
Yet if you're talking about winning short term, while buying yourself some time to figure things out beyond '15, these are the two guys to whom you want to commit.
Rolling over another year for Ortiz -- at the same $15 million-a-year rate -- simply seems like the right move. Forget about the leadership and clubhouse presence. Finding a middle-of-the-order presence to complement Napoli for the final season of the first baseman's commitment with the Red Sox at what it would cost to keep Ortiz could potentially get very complicated. There are some possibilities for power in the form of Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and even prospect Bryce Brentz. But none hit from the left side, and should be expected to be the fit David Ortiz offers in the short term.
Polled at the general managers meetings earlier this offseason, executives and agents almost unanimously suggested if Ortiz was a free agent right now he would be looking at getting at least a two-year, $40 million deal. Judging by what the DH is looking for out of a one-year extension, the Red Sox might be in position to save themselves some cash while not having to rely on the always uncomfortable free agent market (while not getting tied into more than one additional year).
Would you rather have Victor Martinez at potentially three years starting after '14, or Ortiz for one? It's the kind of conundrum that will be staring back at the Red Sox when weighing the extension issue.
Lester's negotiations undoubtedly will be more complex, with the lefty potentially representing an Ellsbury-type target on next offseason's free agent market. Assuming he duplicates his '13 exploits in '14 (a reasonable ask considering the pitcher's history), the Red Sox will be looking at the kind of money given to Matt Cain (6 years, $127.5 million), Zack Greinke (6 years, $147 million) or Cole Hamels (6 years, $144 million). Similar numbers. Similar ages. Similar identities.
By jumping in with Lester now, however, the Red Sox might be able to come closer to Cain than the other two. The lefty said it himself on the Hot Stove Show, explaining, "You sit down with your agent, sit down with your family and realize, yeah, there’s possibly millions of dollars that you left on the table. But at the same time, you’re secure. Your family is secure. You’re with the team and you don’t have to worry about anything. And the same thing will go here in the next couple months or the next however many months. If you sign a deal before you become a free agent, you’re probably most likely leaving money on the table."
And, let's face it, in the Red Sox' quest to identify long-term anchors to whom they would be willing to allocate five (or more) years, Lester seems like a logical candidate. There is something to be said for excelling in the American League East, while also showing a propensity for postseason dominance.
Maybe the Red Sox prefer to execute the familiar plan of using the players' final year to secure more cost-certainty, while also banking on their love affair with Boston.
Yet with the state of the organization -- and the market -- it might not be a bad idea to fire off a few preemptive strikes.