Red Sox Rumors: J.D. Martinez willing to hold out into spring training

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 06: J.D. Martinez /

Boston Red Sox target J.D. Martinez isn’t backing down on his contract demands despite other free agents signing for less than expected in a cool market.

It’s going to be a long, cold winter for the Boston Red Sox in their pursuit of free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports that sources close to Martinez suggested the free agent slugger is willing to “hold out” until spring training if that’s what it takes to receive an offer he deems worthwhile of his talents.

The 30-year old is looking to cash in on the heels of a career year in which he blasted 45 home runs and led the majors in slugging percentage. In his mind, this makes him worth $30 million annually for at least six years. Thus far, none of the potential suitors share the same perspective.

It may be his age, injury history or the lack of defensive value he brings to the table. Teams agree Martinez is the best hitter on the market but he’s not a player worth investing $180 million or more in. The Red Sox may be willing to shell out a salary in the neighborhood of the average annual value Martinez is seeking but they aren’t interested in going beyond the five years they have already offered.

It certainly isn’t helping matters for Martinez that the free agent market has been abnormally frigid this winter, leaving an abundance of corner outfielders and power bats waiting to be claimed. Those who have signed already settled for deals below what many of us initially predicted they would earn.

Jay Bruce‘s 3-year, $39 million deal with the New York Mets serves as the greatest obstacle to Martinez convincing a team to give in to his demands. Martinez is clearly the better hitter of the two but he’s not twice as good as Bruce.

Bruce has never approached the home run total Martinez reached in 2017 but his career-high 36 last season was still good enough to rank 15th in the majors. The average home run total Martinez has produced since his breakout year in 2014 is only marginally better than what Bruce has done over that same span. Bruce has blasted 30+ homers in five of the last seven seasons, while Martinez has only done so twice. Martinez may have the higher power ceiling but Bruce has the longer track record despite that they were born only a few months apart.

He doesn’t hit for a high average or draw enough walks, leaving Bruce with a below-average on-base percentage while Martinez borders on the elite in that category. The gap in their offensive skillset is at least partially offset by Bruce being serviceable in the field while Martinez is a liability best suited for the DH role.

Put it all together and the difference in value between the two outfielders isn’t as far apart as you might think. Martinez was worth 4.2 WAR last season and Bruce posted a 2.9 WAR. Martinez is better but not even close to twice as valuable.

More from Red Sox Rumors

With Bruce setting the market low for 30-year old power-hitting corner outfielders it will be hard for agent Scott Boras to keep a straight face when insisting that his client is worth paying north of $26 million for at least six years.

Martinez is playing the waiting game hoping that someone will get desperate enough to overpay but so far teams haven’t blinked. Comparable talents may have been rewarded with the type of contract Martinez is seeking but not in this market. This is simple economics – the market is flooded with outfielders at a time when power numbers are spiking across the majors. When the supply outweighs the demand it becomes a buyer’s market where players can’t expect to earn top dollar.

As the top available bat, Martinez is attempting to separate himself from the pack as if he were immune to this economic structure. That seems unlikely to pan out while acceptable replacements remain willing to settle for deals that should be better long-term values. Martinez could wait out the market until he’s the last man standing but that’s a risky game to play. The list of suitors who could afford Martinez and have a hole in their lineup to plug him into isn’t long to begin with. If most of those teams move on to more reasonable options then Martinez loses all his leverage.

Next: Has Dombrowski learned from past mistakes?

Perhaps Martinez really is willing to wait until spring but the one thing we can count on is that he’ll sign somewhere before the regular season begins. He may be stubborn but he’s not going to risk being unemployed. Martinez would be better off taking a one-year deal and testing the market again next year rather than sitting through the start of the season without a home.