BOSTON -- The offseason isn't quite officially here for the Boston Red Sox, but ownership and management have already started to prepare for 2013.
General manager Ben Cherington's to-do list is plentiful. First and foremost, the club should quickly sign designated hitter David Ortiz to a two-year deal and start the offseason on a high note. The sides have had preliminary and informal talks, but nothing substantial.
"We really haven't, but they said they're interested in bringing me back," Ortiz said. "We'll see."
It's no secret Ortiz wants to finish his career in Boston, and he deserves to.
"I'm planning on finishing my career here, and trust me, when I stop playing here, I would not like to be packing to go home at this time," Ortiz said. "Right now I'm feeling pretty good about my [Achilles] injury, and I'm finally feeling better and moving forward with that. I definitely feel like there's something I still have to prove. Every year it's the same. Every year you've got to come in and prove something.
"The thing that I keep in mind that I think we can prove is just play better and put ourselves in a better situation for the years to come, and I would like to be a part of it."
A year ago, Ortiz accepted the team's offer of arbitration but contract negotiations dragged on until he finally signed a one-year deal worth $14.58 million. He hopes that's not the case this year.
"Before I come to spring training?" Ortiz said with a laugh. "Of course. Of course. That's something at some point you don't want to deal with; you've got to worry about getting ready to do what you're supposed to do."
It's been a tough year for the Red Sox. Ever since their historic collapse last September, there has been little to cheer about for the fans. And the players haven't been too happy, either. Thankfully, the season is coming to an end.
On Wednesday, before the final home game of the season, players were packing boxes and shipping them home. In fact, some players will not return to Boston following the club's final regular-season game in New York next week. They've already planned on going directly home once the season is over.
It's been a tough season.
"No question," Ortiz said. "It's another year we're not in the pennant race and it's a disappointing year. Hopefully it gets better the following year."
Ortiz believes ownership and upper management can fix it.
"Oh, yeah. No question," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be better next year."
Ortiz said the organization has choices and decisions to make, and that everyone has learned from their mistakes in the past couple of years.
"I think every human being learns from their mistakes and a lot of things that happened this year, carrying over from last year, I think a lot of people will make better decisions to have a better ballclub for next year," he said. "That's how it is in baseball and that's how you can fix things up. I'm pretty sure our owners, and everybody, are going to have a better idea of things they want to correct for next year."
When asked what he would like to see happen to the team for next season, Ortiz had a simple answer.
"Kick some ass next year," he said. "I'm a winner. I like to win. I don't like to play to lose. I work really hard, and put myself together really good to come in and provide wins."
On Tuesday, as part of the season-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the 2004 World Series team was honored. That group of players had a special chemistry. Ortiz is the only player remaining from that team, and when he emerged from the dugout to join his former teammates on the duck boats, it didn't take him long to remember what it was like to play with those guys.
"When you win, I mean, you saw the ceremony yesterday and all those guys are winners," Ortiz said. "Yesterday I kind of realized what type of personality you've got to put together to win a World Series. When I was looking around at all my ex-teammates and the guys I played with, I got some short and quick highlights from the things they used to do to get ready to play the game, and what they used to do when they were on the field."
Those players are gone. The future looks bright with players such as rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, rookie pitcher Junichi Tazawa, infielder Pedro Ciriaco and rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway as the next core of players to make an impact in Boston.
Ortiz has been extremely impressed with Middlebrooks.
"He's legit. That's my boy, man," Ortiz said. "He showed everybody what he's got and he belongs here. Hopefully his hand gets better, and he comes back next year and does what he was doing.
"He's a young guy, and I've tried to teach him everything I know. He listened and he took care of business. That's what we need around here, guys like him capable to work hard and do what he was doing before he got injured."
Unfortunately for the Red Sox and Ortiz, he missed the majority of the second half of the season with his Achilles injury, and it was frustrating for him to watch from the dugout.
"Definitely," he said. "It's been a very crazy year and frustrating. Trust me, it's one of those years that you take like a man. Hopefully things go well and we can put together a better team."