Boston Red Sox cannot afford to lose slugger J.D. Martinez
By Isaac Aaron
As J.D. Martinez has yet another dominant season, the Red Sox need to make sure he is right in the middle of their lineup for 2020 and beyond.
J.D. Martinez’s journey in Boston began in March of 2018 when he signed a 5-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox. His overall journey, however, began way before that.
J.D. started out at Flanagan high school in Florida, where he would graduate in 2006, getting drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 36th round with the 1,086th overall selection. He didn’t end up signing with the Twins, however, going to Nova Southeastern University to play college baseball and becoming a two-time All Sunshine State Conference player for the NSU Sharks.
Re-entering the draft in 2009, Martinez would be drafted once again, this time in the 20th round by the Houston Astros. Skip ahead to a time where J.D. was straight up not having a fun time at the plate, hitting with an OPS of .685 in 2012, followed by a .650 OPS for the 2013 season. After being released, Martinez would be swooped up by the Detroit Tigers. Dare I say that may have been the best thing to happen to J.D. in his baseball career.
After revamping all the mechanics of his swing with the help of Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers, the legend of J.D. Martinez officially began. He would go on to hit .315 with an OPS of .912, connecting for 23 bombs in 2014. He’d hit 15 more home runs with 38 on the season in 2015, hitting .282 with an OPS of .879, following that up with an even better campaign in 2016, hitting .307 with an OPS of .908. After hitting .305 with a monster OPS of 1.018 in the first half of 2017, Martinez would be traded to the contending Arizona Diamondbacks.
I think lots of people knew Martinez was a good hitter in his time with Detroit, but the second half of 2017 was the start of J.D. getting more media attention. Well deserved media attention, at that. Martinez would hit 29(!) home runs in the second half of 2017 alone, hitting over .300, slugging over .700 with an OPS of 1.107. That magical second half would include a 4-home run game at Dodger Stadium, a place that would end up ironically being home to a big moment in his career the very next season.
After signing with Boston, there were, of course, humongous expectations for how he should do coming into the season. Many people thought signing Martinez would be a mistake, as those same people used Pablo Sandoval’s contract as the contrast to signing the free agent slugger. However, Martinez would end up being the complete opposite of what Sandoval was to the Red Sox, and it didn’t take long for us to figure that out.
His whole 2018 season was just plain stupid. In 150 games, Martinez would hit .330 with an OPS of 1.031, knocking 31 home runs and driving in 130 RBI’s. Once again, video game type stuff.
Remember when I mentioned how Dodger Stadium would later be important? Well, that’s the very place Martinez would hit his last home run of 2018, a shot to center in Game 5 of the World Series. It was a shot that extended the Red Sox lead to 4-1 in an eventual 5-1 victory, clinching Boston’s 4th championship in 15 years.
Fast forward to today, and Martinez has been just as good as ever. Although it’s been more of a quiet year for the 32-year-old, he’s still mashing at the plate. In 121 games thus far in 2019, he’s hitting .313 with an OPS of .958. According to FanGraphs, he has a 104 wRC, a 34.6 wRAA, and a wRC+ of 143. Pretty darn good.
There’s only one problem with J.D. at the moment. This is the last year of his contract before he can opt-out. His contract was a little odd from the start, so bear with me here as I try to explain it. He originally signed a 5-year deal, with two of those years being guaranteed. However, he has opt-out clauses before each of the final three seasons. If he decided to opt-in after the 2019 season, he’d be making $23,750,000 for the 2020 season, so he very well could opt-in. Here’s the catch. J.D. might feel like he can earn more money if he opts back to free agency, something he could very well do. If that does indeed happen, the Red Sox cannot afford to lose Martinez.
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In two seasons thus far with the Red Sox, Martinez has an OPS of .998 with 74 home runs and 215 RBI’s. This is exactly the type of numbers we expected him to put up, and he’s done just that.
Something that many don’t know about J.D. beyond the numbers he puts up is his work ethic, and how dedicated he is to improving all the time. He’s also a huge asset fo helping out his teammates, such as Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts. Ever since Martinez arrived in Boston, Betts won an MVP award in 2018 followed by Devers having an MVP-type year in 2019. Is it a coincidence that this is all happening while J.D. is in that clubhouse with them? Absolutely not. He has been a huge help to not only himself over the years, but to his teammates, and that’s a wonderful thing to have in a player.
Martinez has been everything that has been asked of him and more as a Red Sox player. It has been incredibly fun to watch this man every night, and it should not be coming to an end soon. Obviously, one of the more important moves the Red Sox will have to make this decade comes with re-signing Betts. However, you cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT let Martinez walk in free agency. So, if he does indeed opt-out, you better throw him all the money he wants. And you will like it, John Henry.
Although J.D. will cost a bit if you do indeed re-sign him, he has said in the past that he wants to stay in Boston and would take a hometown discount to do so. The bottom line is the fact that this lineup can’t afford to lose not only the amazing bat of Martinez in the middle of their lineup but the wonderful person and teammate that he adds to this Red Sox team. Whatever happens, make sure Martinez is on the roster by Opening Day. Make it happen.