Let’s not sugarcoat this: The Boston Red Sox and J.D. Martinez deserve one another. Unless the Arizona Diamondbacks swoop back in and win over the heart (financially) of Martinez, it seems that the Red Sox are the obvious candidate to land him.
If Boston still wants a shot at winning the AL East and more, they’ve got to settle with Martinez and figure out a way to reach an agreement. Just give in at this point. He’s the best bat available and one of the best sources of offense in baseball.
Though Martinez prefers to sign as an outfielder, he’d be a fantastic fit in the Red Sox lineup as the team’s designated hitter. Boston already has a packed outfield with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi, so he could be inserted into their lineup as the DH.
Yes, they already have Hanley Ramirez, but Ramirez had a pretty bad 2017 campaign in which he started in 108 games at DH. The 34-year-old slashed .242/.320/.429 (.750 OPS) with 23 home runs and 62 runs batted in across the -0.4 fWAR season. That’s just not going to cut it for a Red Sox team that is looking to make the playoffs over a talented juggernaut like the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox have always thrived when they’ve had a productive hitter at DH. They had David Ortiz lock down the DH spot from 2003-2016, as Boston got a combined 48.2 fWAR during his time with the team from the DH spot. During every one of those seasons, the Red Sox never posted a wRC+ below 118 at DH.
In 2017, designated hitters for the Red Sox posted a 90 wRC+. That’s not good.
Since the beginning of his breakout 2014 campaign, Martinez has posted a 148 wRC+, which is behind only Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper, among players who have played in at least 480 games in that span. His 166 wRC+ last season was only behind Trout and Aaron Judge. He had an absurd .387 ISO last season with 45 home runs and 85 runs batted in.
Martinez turning 30 years old last August combined with his below-average outfield defense (14.8 UZR/150, minus-5 DRS in 2017) accounts to why it’s been hard for him to land a lucrative contract this offseason. Pitchers and catchers have already reported and the Scott Boras client is still jobless.
His age and shoddy defense don’t profile him as a player who’s likely to sign with a team in the National League, other than perhaps a reunion with the Diamondbacks, who he thrived with last year after being acquired from the Detroit Tigers. He’s still an elite bat that profiles well in the American League — hence the Red Sox connection all offseason.