Big Papi is More Important to the 2013 Red Sox Than Some Realize

Making sure David Ortiz is healthy is far more important than having him rush back for Opening Day. Looking at this roster his absence will be felt more than it would have been in recent years. For the first time since 2007 or 2008, Big Papi is being relief upon to carry the offense.

This also ties into the narrative that giving Ortiz a two-year deal is as Gary Tanguay said, "A gold watch for 2004," or was signed to sell tickets. Going into the 2011 and 2012 seasons Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis were expected to carry the weight. With those players moving on and Ortiz's resurgence, Big Papi is expected to be the man again. That gave him more leverage than he ever had coming into free agency. The Red Sox had more money than they knew what to do with. The Red Sox were in no position to take Ortiz to the wall again. They needed to wrap up his contract quickly so they could also devote their time and energy to filling the rest of the roster.

Without Ortiz the 2013 Red Sox might have a middle three of Victorino, Middlebrooks, and Napoli. That isn't going to make long-time Red Sox fans forget Manny and Ortiz; or Boggs, Rice, and Evans. If I were Farrell I would strongly consider moving either Pedroia or Ellsbury down in the lineup. Regardless, the Red Sox offense needs Ortiz to be elite. With this pitching staff the Sox will have to score lots of runs to mount a serous playoff push.

The Sox do have options to fill the DH spot. The decision to overpay for Jonny Gomes whose best position is DH may have been made with Ortiz's condition in mind. Adding patient hitters like Gomes, Mike Napoli and Victorino will ensure the lineup will be ok, but without a premium run producer like Ortiz was in 2012 there could be lots of 5-3 losses where the Sox strand 12 base-runners.

Any playoff push this team makes will be tightly fought. All 162 games will be important. Chances are that if Ortiz misses a couple weeks in April we won't be worried that the season is on the line. Come September if the club is within a game or two of a wild card, those missed games in April count just as much as those games in September.