The Arizona Diamondbacks have discussed long and short-term offers with free agent J.D. Martinez, presenting the Boston Red Sox with some competition.
Negotiations between the Boston Red Sox and free agent J.D. Martinez remain in a stalemate. The player isn’t satisfied with the offer on the table, while the team has no incentive to raise their bid with a lack of suitors to force their hand.
That may be about to change with the Arizona Diamondbacks seemingly ready to jump in the mix. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Diamondbacks have discussed both short and long-term deals with Martinez.
Reports that Martinez was “fed up” with the Red Sox for being inflexible in negotiations were swiftly shot down by his agent. Scott Boras claims that his client never made a statement regarding the Red Sox and the sides continue to negotiate in good faith, as reported by NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich.
The Red Sox have been the clear frontrunner to sign Martinez by virtue of being the only team confirmed to have made an official offer. While they are clearly still in the mix, the Diamondbacks getting serious about bringing him back to Arizona complicates matters for Boston.
Martinez thrived following the mid-season trade to the desert, hitting .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBI in 62 games to help lead the Diamondbacks to the postseason. The success of that deadline deal should entice the team to want to keep Martinez in Arizona but questions have lingered over whether or not they have the payroll flexibility to afford him.
Rumors swirled earlier this winter that Arizona would try to move Zack Greinke‘s contract in an effort to clear payroll space for Martinez. What sense does that make? Arizona would be a questionable postseason contender if they weaken their rotation by dealing their ace. Trading for Martinez as a rental made sense because it boosted them into the playoffs but signing him long-term is illogical if they aren’t ready to contend. Arizona also has Paul Goldschmidt‘s free agency looming in 2020.
If the Diamondbacks retain Martinez, it’s unlikely that the deal will top the five years Boston has offered. Martinez is a defensively-challenged 30-year old corner outfielder. He’ll be best suited for the designated hitter role by the end of the contract, if not immediately. As a National League club, the Diamondbacks don’t have the luxury of slotting him in at DH, increasing the risk of signing him deep into his 30’s.
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A short-term deal would be more feasible for Arizona and Nightengale previously reported they have made a one-year offer for Martinez. It’s hard to see why Martinez would be enticed by that.
It’s not unprecedented for a free agent to settle for a one-year deal when they fail to find an acceptable offer, hoping the market will be better the following winter. In this case, Martinez would be jumping back into free agency to join a class that could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson. His market isn’t improving if he goes from the clear top bat on the market to the fourth most appealing option.
Martinez’ value has never been higher on the heels of a career year. If he falls short of repeating that level of production in 2018 then teams will be less inclined to offer him the type of contract next winter that he’s looking for now. His injury history also adds another layer of risk to waiting a year to cash in.
While Arizona’s involvement poses the first real threat the Red Sox have faced in their pursuit of Martinez, it’s hard to believe Boston’s brass would allow the Diamondbacks to outbid them. The concern is that Martinez might be willing to settle for less to stay in Arizona, where he excelled in a hitter-friendly park last season and can remain in the outfield full-time.
Will the offers coming in from Arizona push the Red Sox to increase their bid? Hard to tell at this point but at least having another contender step into the ring may finally spark some action in this stagnant free agent market.