Red Sox Free Agent Targets: Top 5 available hitters

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 27: J.D. Martinez /
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PHOENIX, AZ – SEPTEMBER 27: J.D. Martinez (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ – SEPTEMBER 27: J.D. Martinez (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

J.D. Martinez

The biggest prize in the free agent hitter pool is Martinez. The 30-year old had his breakout campaign back in 2014 after Dave Dombrowski acquired him as general manager of the Tigers. Could the current Red Sox president of baseball operations pursue Martinez again?

Martinez hit .303/.376./.690 over 119 games split between the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. He led the majors in slugging, his 1.066 OPS was second and he was third in home runs with 45. Those are the Ortiz-type numbers this Red Sox lineup was missing this year.

As enticing as those numbers are, Martinez isn’t without a few red flags. He has played in more than 123 games only once in his seven year career. Prior to this season, he topped 23 home runs only once in his career, in large part due to missing so much time with various injuries.

Martinez hit 29 home runs in only 62 games with the Diamondbacks after opening the season with 16 homers in 57 games with the Tigers. Arizona’s Chase Field was the fourth best home run park in baseball according to ESPN’s Park Factors. While Fenway is an above-average park for offense, it ranked only 26th for home runs. Martinez’ power is legit but don’t expect him to routinely top 40 homers per season if he signs here.

As an outfielder, signing Martinez presents the same problem of where to put him. Although, unlike Upton and Bruce, Martinez is a below-average defensive player. It may be easier to persuade him to become a DH, especially if he can be sold on the idea that the role would help keep him healthy.

The downside is that Martinez will still except to be paid like an everyday position player, so there will be no discount for being a DH like there was with Ortiz. Despite his defensive limitations, Martinez will almost certainly earn the biggest contract of any free agent hitter this winter. Without providing any defensive value it will be difficult for Martinez to live up to the lucrative contract he’ll demand.

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It may prove to be a poor value but given how desperate they are to add a home run threat to the middle of their lineup it would be worth shelling out the money for Martinez.