Red Sox: Jay Bruce a viable free agent alternative to J.D. Martinez


If the Red Sox won’t commit to an expensive, long-term contract with J.D. Martinez, they could sign Jay Bruce and use the savings to re-sign other players.

Suppose J.D. Martinez rebuffs the Boston Red Sox because they would only offer a 5-year contract; would Dave Dombroski consider a “Martinez-Lite” solution?

Say there was another player, who is also 30, a left-handed batter, a free agent and he would:

Take a 2-year contract.

Take less than $25 million a year.

Be able to play the outfield and first base.

Hit 36 HRs, knock in 100 runs.

Hit .250

Yes, Jay Bruce.

If Dombroski was willing to give a 5-year deal to J.D. Martinez for, say, $25 million a year, why not spend just $26 million for two years and save that remaining $99 million for 2019, when salary flexibility might allow him to go for Bryce Harper?  Or, spend the savings to keep David Price and/or Craig Kimbrel.

If Bruce and Martinez were to repeat their 2017 numbers, how much difference would that make?

Martinez:             45 HRs                  Bruce: 36             -9

Martinez:             104 RBIs              Bruce: 101           -3

Martinez:             85 Rs                    Bruce:  82            -3

Martinez:             .690 Slg%             Bruce: .508         -.082

Martinez:             .376 OBP             Bruce: .324         -.052

As expected, Martinez wins in all offensive categories; the question to consider is:

Does the difference make Martinez a better financial decision for the Red Sox?

Apparently, Dombroski is not willing to go for a 7+ year contract, because, worst case scenario, he winds up with a guy in his late 30’s who is limited to DH and in an offensive decline, who is a financial “albacore” in the team’s budget sail.

Imagine shelling out $25 million a year, when Martinez is 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 years old.

And who can blame Dombroski for being gun shy of expensive, lengthy contracts?

As noted by my colleague, Sean Penney:

"“Boras has a history of Jedi mind-tricking teams into overlooking the flaws and overpaying his clients despite the risks. He’s never been afraid to play the waiting game and the deeper we get into winter, the more desperate teams may become.Dombrowski found this out the hard way. In 2012, when he was the general manager of the Detroit Tigers, Dombrowski signed free agent Prince Fielder to a massive 9-year, $214 million deal.”"

Dombroski is also aware of prior bonehead deals made by his predecessors: Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, Matt Clement, John Lackey. The list goes on.

Since Martinez has made it clear that he will insist on playing in the Fenway outfield for a few more years and he has the stats of a “Dr. Strangeglove,” he becomes a defensive liability.

Bruce is a better defensive option in the outfield and he has also played first base in MLB.

And, speaking of right field in Fenway, where they moved in the fences to accommodate lefty hitter Ted Williams, Bruce is a dead pull hitter:

"“Jay Bruce has always had very good pull side power, even when playing through injury and slumps. His extra base hit rate to right field is remarkably consistent over the years, especially since 2013 where it has hovered between 31.8% and 33.6% of Line Drives and Fly Balls.”"

When it comes down to the money, Bruce was most recently paid $13 million for one year [2017] and we could expect that he might take less than $25 million per year for a new 2-year contract.

Suppose he is willing to accept between $13-25 million and split the difference.  Say he signs for two years at $18 million per year; that would be a bargain if he performs as well as he did in 2017; compared to blowing $25 million per year for at least five seasons.

That would leave a ton of bucks to spend on a free agent or two in 2019.

The 2019 free agent crop includes:

Bryce Harper, RF
2019 age: 26
2017 stats: .319/.413/.595, 4.7 WAR

Manny Machado, 3B
2019 age: 26
2017 stats: .259/.310/.471, 3.5 WAR

Clayton Kershaw, LHP (opt-out)
2019 age: 31
2017 stats: 18-4, 2.31 ERA, 4.6 WAR

Josh Donaldson, 3B
2019 age: 33
2017 stats: .270/.385/.559, 4.8 WAR

Charlie Blackmon, CF
2019 age: 32
2017 stats: .331/.399/.601, 6.0 WAR

Drew Pomeranz, LHP
2019 age: 30
2017 stats: 17-6, 3.32 ERA, 4.0 WAR

Elvis Andrus, SS (opt-out)
2019 age: 30
2017 stats: .297/.337/.471, 4.7 WAR

Brian Dozier, 2B
2019 age: 32
2017 stats: .271/.359/.498, 4.4 WAR

David Price, LHP (opt-out)
2019 age: 33
2017 stats: 6-3, 3.38 ERA, 1.7 WAR

Andrew Miller, LHP
2019 age: 34
2017 stats: 4-3, 1.44 ERA, 3.1 WAR

Craig Kimbrel, RHP
2019 age: 31
2017 stats: 5-0, 1.43 ERA, 3.6 WAR

Notice this short list of some of the best available players includes Price and Kimbrel.

Next: Past free agency mistakes make Dave Dombrowski cautious

Would the Red Sox be smarter to sign Jay Bruce for $18 million and leave the bloated Martinez contract [$100 million to $250 million] on the table, so they will have some funds left in the bank to keep Price and Kimbrel?