A contract between slugger J.D. Martinez and the Boston Red Sox is apparently on the verge of happening now that MLB Spring Training is officially underway. About two months ago, the 2017 American League East winners offered the Arizona Diamondbacks free agent a five-year deal in the range of $100-$125 million.
[It appears to be official: See updates below]
Baseball agent Scott Boras represents Martinez, 30, and reports indicated that he sought six or seven years, and more money of course, from the Red Sox. The situation appeared to be at an impasse, and FanRagSports writer Jon Heyman subsequently claimed that a dissatisfied Martinez might re-sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a shorter time horizon instead. Boras is known for holding out for every last dime, and thus clients are seldom quick to sign on the dotted line. With Boras client Eric Hosmer finally inking an eight-year, $144 million contract with the San Diego Padres, perhaps the logjam has been broken.
Owners are increasingly risk-adverse to long-term deals with players already in their 30s. History has demonstrated that long-term deals hardly ever pan out in MLB, as aging player skills substantially diminish at the back end of a contract and teams get stuck with an underperforming player and what’s called “dead money.” No other team, with the exception perhaps of the D’backs, are apparently in the running for J.D. Martinez.
In a tweet today, ESPN insider Buster Olney, who tends to have good MLB sources, wrote that the J.D. Martinez-Boston Sox deal is happening “soon.”
Parenthetically, Olney is predicting that the Cleveland Indians will defeat the Washington Nationals in the 2018 World Series.
Much intrigue in general surrounds free-agent signings. Red Sox writer Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports claims that Heyman has a track record of spinning for Scott Baras.
“So, all of that was basically to say that I trust Olney on all things baseball significantly more than I trust Heyman. Heyman is a Scott Boras puppet who has long been accused of making up mystery teams to create leverage for Boras clients, making up news tidbits to steer narratives and so forth.”
Heyman is also now reporting that the Martinez-Sox deal is getting close to fruition.
Last season, the outfielder, who split the MLB season between the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, blasted 45 home runs (third highest in MLB) and 104 RBI and finished the season with a 0.303 average and a 1.066 OPS. If he produces as projected, Martinez would supply some badly needed offense for the BoSox, who found themselves at the bottom of the American League in home runs and 14th in slugging percentage in 2017. The Red Sox will have their hands full trying to compete in the division with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and the Yankees, making Martinez’s power crucial.
While they struggled in scoring runs, the Red Sox won the AL East in 2017 with a 93-69 record (two games ahead of the New York Yankees), although they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. Even with their offensive woes, Boston pulled off an amazing 15 extra-inning victories in last year’s campaign.
If he signs with Boston, J.D. Martinez is likely to be the team’s primary designated hitter. He is not known for his defense, and the dynamic Red Sox outfield is set (unless a trade occurs) with the killer Bs: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi, making Martinez the fourth outfielder who would play in the event of an injury or a player taking a day off. Some sort of platoon arrangement at first base with Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez is also possible, although a Martinez signing could suggest that the Sox might attempt to trade Ramirez, who has disappointed as an RBI generator.
Martinez enjoys a reputation as a great teammate, which should contribute to clubhouse chemistry, something that the Red Sox players are now conceding was an issue in 2017.
Last week, the Red Sox re-signed infielder Eduardo Nunez to a one-year deal, with an option for a second. A big leaguer who can play multiple positions, Nunez did a great job, batting 0.321, after coming over from the San Francisco Giants. With Dustin Pedroia still recovering from left-knee surgery, Nunez may become the everyday second basemen until Pedroia is ready.
First breaking in with the Houston Astros in 2011, J.D. Martinez is a career 0.285 hitter, with a total of 152 home runs, 476 RBI, and a 0.342 on-base percentage.
ESPN is now reporting that the J.D. Martinez-Boston Red Sox contract is a done deal. Watch this space for updates.
Update: Jon Heyman is reporting that in the front-loaded, five-year, $110-million deal, J.D. Martinez will earn $25 million a year in 2017 and 2018. The contract apparently includes two opt outs. Buster Olney and others say that the Boston Red Sox sweetened their original deal by $10 million (which is a modest concession by MLB salary standards).