Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez reveals that the club has not approached him about a contract extension despite his looming opt-out.
There have been plenty of discussions lately about contract extensions as the Boston Red Sox aim to keep their championship core together. Fans want to see Chris Sale locked up in order to avoid the risk of losing him to free agency next winter. Many are already worried about the future of Mookie Betts despite that he’s two years away from hitting the market. One player whose contract situation we haven’t heard much about is J.D. Martinez.
Martinez may be going a bit overlooked because he’s not technically a free agent after this season. At least not yet. He could be though if he exercises the first of two opt-out clauses in the five-year deal he signed prior to last season.
Despite that Martinez could test the market again after this season, he told WEEI’s Rob Bradford that an extension hasn’t been discussed.
"“I don’t really even think it has been discussed yet with (agent) Scott (Boras). My standpoint is I want to focus on the season,” said Martinez. “That’s the most important thing. We have a special group of guys here and I want to go out and give us the best opportunity to win.”"
Martinez was everything the Red Sox could have hoped for and more in his first season in Boston. He hit .330 with a 1.031 OPS, 43 home runs, and a league-leading 130 RBI. He was an All-Star, finished fourth on the MVP ballot, and won two Silver Sluggers. His presence in the middle of the lineup solved the power drought that plagued the team in 2017 and several of his teammates have credited Martinez with helping them improve at the plate.
The Red Sox can’t afford to lose Martinez’ bat so why haven’t they made an effort to lock him up?
Perhaps they are hoping that Martinez doesn’t opt out, allowing them to retain their superstar for at least one more season at a relative bargain rate of $23.75 million. A new contract would almost certainly pay him more than that in 2020 in addition to potentially adding more years to the deal. Considering the Red Sox were hesitant to go as far as five years while negotiating with Martinez last year, they probably aren’t eager to make any changes if they don’t have to.
If Martinez doesn’t opt out after this season, he’ll get another opportunity to do so in 2020. His salary would fall to $19.35 million in the final two years of his deal if he doesn’t exercise either opt-out, making it unlikely that he doesn’t seek a new deal by that point unless he suffers a devastating injury or his production falling off a cliff.
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Boston’s brass may secretly be hoping that Martinez utilizes the second opt-out, putting him back on the market at the age of 33 when his skills may start to deteriorate. This conveniently lines up with when the time comes to pay Betts. In an ideal world, Boston will have found a younger, cheaper replacement to anchor the lineup so they can feel comfortable letting someone else pay Martinez as he approaches his mid-30’s.
This approach could backfire if Martinez bolts after this season when the young players in the organization aren’t ready to step up to fill his role and the free agent market lacks appealing alternatives. Are we sure Martinez is eager to jump back into free agency after his frustrating experience last year though? He didn’t end up landing the type of long-term deal he expected since the Red Sox were his only suitor and refused to bid against themselves. Why would he expect his experience to be any better when he’s two years older?
The Red Sox have a lot on their plate next winter. In addition to Sale, they will also need to address impending free agents Rick Porcello, Xander Bogaerts, and Brock Holt. They may not be able to retain all of them and the status of Martinez could throw a wrench in their plans. Once they determine which of their other free agents will be a part of the team’s future it will be easier to budget what’s left for Martinez. That may be why the front office is willing to table these talks until next year.