Red Sox Free Agency: Backup plans for J.D. Martinez
By Earl Nash
While many members of Red Sox Nation want the Red Sox to sign J.D. Martinez, if they don’t what would be their other options to fill their DH slot?
The Boston Red Sox signing of Mitch Moreland was like the divorced guy, who got set up with his first blind date; he meets her at the restaurant and it’s his ex-wife.
A large percentage of Red Sox Nation will be just as disappointed if president of baseball operations, Dave Dombroski, does not sign DH/OF J.D. Martinez for $140 million for seven years.
But, a closer look reveals that Martinez might not be the best fit for the Red Sox.
For example: Was his 45 HR season an aberration?
Forecasters Baseball Reference and Steamer say, YES.
If he returns to his average performance, Martinez will jack just 32 homers and, at that price, is he worth it?
OK, yes, Martinez had a great year in 2017, but was it a predictor of what he will do in 2018 and for the next seven, years?
The statheads at Steamer forecast a productive year for Martinez in 2018, but not as great as 2017 and Baseball Reference bases its prediction for 162 games on the average of the stats by complete career.
If you accept the widely held estimate that Martinez is seeking a 7-year deal for a total of $140 million, he seems to be a good bargain, if he hits 45 home runs again. Also, his price is relatively reasonable in that Carlos Santana just signed for $20 million per year for three years and Eirc Hosmer is reported to be looking for about the same yearly salary, but over 10-year period.
Steamer and Baseball Reference are close with their HR numbers [32/31], so let’s suppose Martinez hits 32 HRs with about 90 RBIs.
Is he worth $20 million a year for 7 years?
Twenty million divided by 45 HRs = $444,444.44 per HR.
Twenty million divided by 32 HRs = $625,000.00 per HR.
For comparison, let’s calculate the price of Moreland homers.
Moreland’s contract is 2 years for a total of $13 million, or $6.5 million per year.
Let’s combine the Steamer and Baseball Reference forecasts [23+22] and split the difference and suppose Moreland hits 23 HRs in 2018.
$6.5 million divided by 23 = approx. $282,609 per Moreland HR.
$20 million divided by 32 = $625,000 for each Martinez HR.
Yes, a Martinez HRs costs a lot more than a Moreland bomb:
About $346,000 more per homer.
If you repeat the same calculations for RBIs @ 75 and 91, you get:
Moreland per RBI: $ 86,667
Martinez per RBI: $220,000
A difference of about $134,000 per RBI.
At a ratio of 20 to 6.5 in millions, is Martinez worth that much for that long?
Is there a better bargain out there? A Martinez-lite for a lot less money invested?
You would assume that, against RHPs, lefty batting Moreland would be at first base and the DH slot would also have a lefty hitter. Against LHPs, righty batting Hanley Ramirez would man the bag and a RHB would take the DH spot.
Unless the Sox sign another left-handed hitter to fill that spot, who do we have on the current 40-man roster?
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Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart are switch-hitters, but have not shown the offense for that slot.
Sam Travis and Bryce Brentz are two erstwhile “promising” sluggers, but remain unproven and are both RHBs down the depth chart from “starting” DH Ramirez.
Our search for a LHB to place in the DH slot against RHPs to pair with LHB first base starter Moreland offers Tzu-Wei Lin, Brock Holt, and Marco Hernandez, none of whom fit the profile of a power hitter for the DH slot.
If the Sox sign Eduardo Nunez [RHB], he could take third base and allow Devers to DH against RHPs.
Dombroski describes the team’s requirements this way:
“…we feel we have a [designated hitter slot], and that between [Hanley Ramirez] and if I could find someone else to DH and play outfield spots, that would give us plenty of at-bats and opportunities for somebody to contribute in a full-time fashion.”
He seems to be saying that he has a right-handed hitting DH in Ramirez and he would be glad to find a lefty hitter DH to compliment him.
He specifies an outfielder who could serve as a DH and also spell the corners.
Two Free Agents that would fit the profile LHB OF with power are Jay Bruce and Logan Morrison; Bruce could play LF and Morrison can play OF and has over a thousand starts at first base.
Both also represent a significant financial savings over Martinez:
Bruce is 30 and had a resurgent offensive year in 2017 with the New York Mets and Cleveland Indians with a career high 36 HRs. He would be below average on defense, but not a liability.
AB R HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
555 82 36 101 .254 .324 .508 .832
The Red Sox would have to outbid Cleveland for his services, since the Indians just lost Carlos Santana to the Phillies [3 yr. @$20 million per yr.] So, Bruce may be thinking he is worth $20 million a year or so and may not be a bargain, unless he can crank out 30+ homers again.
He is listed by Baseball Reference as “First Baseman and Leftfielder.”
He is 30 years old and has played for five teams.
He has played 4,384.1 innings at first base and 2,136.1 innings in the outfield.
His 2017 WAR was 3.6.
His split stats vs. RHPs were 32/69 in 383 ABs last season and he slashed .251/.356/.548/904.
His highest salary was $4,200,000 in 2016 and was reduced to $2,500,000 last season with Tampa, so maybe he takes a 1-year deal for $4-5 million with a team option for 2019. That would be a bargain for a 32 HRs and 69 RBI hitter to pair with LHB Moreland at first against a RHP.
Next: Boston Red Sox Rumors: It’s J.D. Martinez or stand pat for Sox
Recalling the infamous long-term Panda deal, as well as other duds like Lackey, Lugo, Offerman, Renteria, Matsuzaka, Castillo, and Crawford, do you think J.D. Martinez, at $20 million for 7 years, is the best deal for the power from a DH?