The Boston Red Sox and free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez need each other; it’s as simple as that.
This offseason has been one of the slowest moving free agent periods in recent memory. With a great deal of premier and high-profile names still up for grabs, many players and agents are going to begin panicking. For landmark names such as Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland and Martinez to still be available in January is hard to fathom and truly remarkable. With Spring Training (yes, Spring Training) now under two months away, players and agents are in rapid pursuit of finding homes and teams are looking to put the finishing touches on their roster. For Martinez, the Red Sox appear to be on his tail, for the meantime at least.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox have reportedly offered Martinez a five-year deal.
Once considered by agent Scott Boras as the “King Kong” of Slug and a player worthy of a deal in excess of $200 million, the Diamondbacks’ right fielder appears to have lost leverage in contract discussions two months into free agency. At the same time, given the righty’s well-rounded arsenal and the fit that exists in Beantown, the Red Sox will likely be willing to fork over some nice coin in their reported five-year deal.
Coming off their second consecutive AL East division title, but also their second straight first-round exit, there are many questions surrounding first-year manager Alex Cora and the Red Sox. While he drove in 100 runs for the second consecutive year, Mookie Betts‘ average dropped from .318 to .264 in 2017. Jackie Bradley Jr. also saw an immense drop in his production at the plate and Xander Bogaerts failed to take the next step in becoming a star shortstop. What the Red Sox do have going for them is the rise of left fielder Andrew Benintendi and third baseman Rafael Devers.
Hitting .271, to go along with 20 home runs and 90 runs driven in, while showcasing an ability to hold his own in front of the Green Monster, Benintendi put together a promising rookie season; he was even a finalist for AL Rookie of the Year.
After being bought up in the second half of the season, Devers was a pleasant surprise. Hitting .284, to go along with 10 home run and 30 runs driven in, he provided the Red Sox with a power bat.
At the end of the day, the youthful combo of Benintendi and Betts, as well as Betts, isn’t going to be enough for Boston’s lineup to pose a potent bunch; they need another big bat and Martinez can be that bat.
Last season, Martinez endured the most captivating season of his career. Hitting a career-high 45 home runs (16 with the Detroit Tigers and 29 with the Arizona Diamondbacks), to go along with 104 runs batted in, the power-hitting righty was an overwhelming presence at the plate. Also a career .285 hitter, Martinez is adept at hitting for contact, in addition to providing a power presence. And while his 45 home runs could very well prove to be a fluke, the reality is that Martinez has hit 20+ home runs in each of the last four seasons and hits for a high average. He’s capable of getting behind flyballs at ease and, for his career, has committed little to no errors; he’s a well-rounded player.
Is Martinez worth $210 million, or even the best right fielder in the game? No and no, but with his free agency dragging out so long, the Red Sox shouldn’t have to worry about either being the case.
The American League has become incredibly competitive and Boston is the fourth-best team in the AL. The Houston Astros are fresh off winning the World Series and only going to get better given their youthful lineup and stout rotation. The New York Yankees were one game away from heading to the World Series and just added Giancarlo Stanton to a lineup that was already one of the most feared in the league. The Cleveland Indians finished 2017 with the best overall record in the American League and had they not blown a 2-0 lead to the Yankees in the ALDS could’ve very well represented the AL in the World Series.
The Red Sox have tight competition and need to make a big move or two in order to keep up with the pack. Their rotation, when on its game, can be one of the best in the majors. Chris Sale, the strikeout king, is the second best lefty the game has to offer, Rick Porcello is just one year removed from being crowned the AL Cy Young, David Price has proven in the past that he can be a top of the rotation arm when he has his command and Drew Pomeranz came into his own in 2017. Their bullpen also posted the second best overall ERA in the majors (3.15).
The Red Sox lineup has a number of quality and highly-regarded bats, but they didn’t perform up to expectations last season. Bringing back Mitch Moreland — who hit 22 home runs and drove in 79 runs in 2017 — on a two-year, $13 million deal instead of breaking the bank for Hosmer, was a shrewd move by the Red Sox, but it’s not enough.
Boston needs an impactful power bat in the middle of their order and Martinez fits that bill. On the flip side, Martinez and other big-name free agents are running out of landing spots and Boston may be the outfielder’s final chance at snatching a big deal, in terms of length and dollars. The two sides are in dire need of one another.