There’s nothing I’d like better than to see slugger J.D. Martinez wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform in 2018 and beyond. The free agent has been in serious negotiations with the team for quite some time now, and reports are that he is holding out for a contract that exceeds six years in length and $180 million in value. If that’s true than no matter how much Boston may need his power in the lineup they should pass on his services.
The 30-year-old right-handed hitter bashed .303 with 45 home runs in 119 games last season with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona D-Backs. There is no doubt that he is an impact bat with few peers in the game. However, for a nuanced team like the Red Sox who have deep pockets every postseason, he may be too much of a luxury if his price rises too high.
Martinez is an outfielder by name only. His advanced defensive metrics suggest he is among the worst glove men in the game. Given his age, it’s only reasonable to surmise that his “nimbleness” in the field is only going to decline over the life of his next contract. His value to the Red Sox (who have a pretty loaded outfield already with Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr.) is strictly his bat. While that is high value for a team that finished last in the league in home runs last year, it is not enough to pay him $30 million a year for a better part of the next decade.
When negotiating a contract with Martinez, one must also take his health into account. About to enter his eighth year in the majors, he has appeared in more than 123 games just once before (2015). Lingering nagging injuries have kept him off the field in just about every season except one.
This is no attempt to minimize or take down Martinez. He is a wonderful player and particularly a top-flight hitter. However, there are concerns, and enough of them, that a team should be resolute in only going as far as they feel comfortable in terms of dollars and years. When a car has some mileage and dings, it should not be expected that they command a brand new dealership lot sticker price (but there is no shame in trying).
The Red Sox have reportedly been willing to go as far as a five-year offer somewhere in the $120-$150 million range. That seems awfully strong for a likely designated hitter with a couple of rather significant concerns on file—not to mention entering his thirties.
Hopefully Boston and Martinez can reach an agreement that works for the both of them. The fit seems mutually strong, with the team’s desperate need for power and the potential damage he could do playing half his games in a cozy stadium like Fenway Park.
Although spring training is just around the corner, the off-season can be a waiting game, especially for free agents like Martinez. His agent, Scott Boras, is also the best in the business when it comes to playing every angle and getting his client the best contract possible. If he believes there is even a chance he can get his asking price, he’s not afraid to roll the dice and refuse to budge off his position.
The Red Sox should remain strong in their pursuit of Martinez, yet should keep their eyes clear in terms of not spending past the value they have assigned him. Hitters like him don’t come along very often but the risks associated with signing him keep him from being a slam dunk. Time will only tell if this will all work out but in the meantime Sox fans remain on the end of their seats to see if their team will be able to work out a deal for this intriguing upgrade.
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