J.D. Martinez – 6 years, $150 million
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that the Red Sox will land the top free agent hitter on their list.
Martinez is coming off a career year in which he hit .303/.376/.690 over 119 games split between the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. He fits the profile for what the Red Sox need as a middle-of-the-order slugger. Martinez smashed the third most home runs in the majors with 45 and his 1.066 OPS was second.
A mid-season trade to Arizona led to an offensive explosion for Martinez. He hit 29 of those 45 homers in only 62 games with the Diamondbacks.
As impressive as his second-half surge was, his power production in the desert may also be a reason to temper expectations. Arizona’s Chase Field ranked as the fourth best ballpark in the majors for home runs, according to MLB Park Factors. Fenway Park was near the bottom in that category. Martinez is going to hit no matter what park he plays in but we shouldn’t expect another 40+ homer season if he comes to Boston.
If Martinez can come anywhere near his previous career-high of 38 home runs he would still immediately become the best power threat in the Red Sox lineup. He may not put up MVP caliber numbers but he’s still an All-Star quality bat.
His defense, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. Boston has arguably the best defensive trio of outfielders in baseball, leaving no room for a below-average defender like Martinez. He would need to be open to spending a significant portion of his playing time as the designated hitter.
$25 million per year is a lot to pay for a full-time DH. Although, when you consider the Red Sox have been paying Hanley Ramirez nearly as much to either DH or play below-average defense, maybe it doesn’t seem so bad.
The six-year deal is almost as concerning as the average annual value considering Martinez is 30 years old, but if he’s willing to DH most of the time then he should hold up.
Martinez can’t be offered a qualifying offer by the Diamondbacks since he was acquired mid-season, so signing him wouldn’t cost the Red Sox a draft pick. That’s an advantage that they wouldn’t get with signing most of their top targets, which may offset some of the concerns about the higher price.