The Red Sox need to set up another meeting to discuss free agent J.D. Martinez with agent Scott Boras when he visits Boston next weekend.
The stalemate continues between the Boston Red Sox and Scott Boras, the shrewd agent of the team’s top free agent target, J.D. Martinez.
Boston currently has the best, if not he only, offer on the table for Martinez. While they seem to be in the same ballpark in terms of the average annual value, the two sides remain at an impasse over the number of years.
The Red Sox have been linked to Martinez all winter as the obvious fit given their desperate need for a power threat to anchor their lineup and a willingness to exceed the luxury tax in a year every other large market team seems to be shying away from the threshold. It’s as close to a perfect match as either side will find in this free agent market, yet Dave Dombrowski and Boras have both stubbornly refused to cave.
It’s time for these two to sit down again and hash this out. Spring training is right around the corner and it does neither side any good to have a star player miss time in camp. Will this meeting happen soon? Nothing has been officially set, although ESPN’s Buster Olney raises the possibility of the Red Sox reigniting negotiations while Boras is in town next weekend.
Reports of Boston’s offer have ranged anywhere from around $100 million to $150 million, yet the consensus has always been that it’s a five-year deal. Dombrowski is digging in on this stance that he will not commit more than that to a player who is already 30 years old.
Boras continues to do Scott Boras things, countering with piles of data that supports the notion that deals of at least six years have historically produced better value than shorter deals. FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that Boras’ presentation showed that the average contract in the six-to-ten year range has been $128 million and the average value of those deals based on WAR was $162 million.
The facts Boras has provided are true in the same way that any statistic can be truthful once it’s manipulated to conform to your argument. The long-term deals he refers to are reserved only for stars who should be expected to outperform their contract on the front end of the deal. The hope is that even if their production falls off in the last year or two, the deal can still be looked at as worthwhile based on the production the team received during the player’s prime years.
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The flaw in this logic is that many of the players accounting for this statistic weren’t already 30 years old when they signed, as Martinez is now. The end of his prime will come sooner than it did for some of the players bolstering Boras’ data.
The decision to use WAR as a baseline for value could backfire on Boras. As much as the Red Sox could use his bat in the lineup, Martinez’ defense is either a negative or non-factor. He’s coming off a prolific season at the plate but his lack of contributions in other aspects of the game left him with a 4.2 WAR that barely cracked the top-40 among positions players. Martinez is a great hitter but it’s going to be difficult for him to significantly outperform his contract on the front end, which is why teams are cautious of giving him a long-term deal.
A five-year deal seems fair given those concerns. Boras is demanding that the Red Sox go above and beyond for his client since they are only offering him the designated hitter role, while Martinez prefers to play the outfield. The problem is that he’s not very good in the outfield and other suitors aren’t lining up to give him that spot on their team.
Negotiations are about give and take. No team is going to give Martinez 7+ years, while the Red Sox are dead set on holding at five. Why not split the difference by giving him six, with the final year being a vesting option based on performance? If Martinez performs late into his contract, as Boras claims he will, then he’ll have his sixth year. If his production falls off a cliff then Boston can let him go after the five year period they were aiming for.
Now all Dombrowski has to do is convince Boras of this. With the super-agent scheduled to be in town next weekend, he may get that chance.