Red Sox: Jose Abreu’s extension shows J.D. Martinez was wise to opt-in
By Sean Penney
J.D. Martinez’s decision to stick with the Red Sox rather than opting for free agency seems wise following Jose Abreu’s extension with the White Sox.
Scott Boras can spin the story about how his client wished to remain in a competitive environment but we all know the reason why J.D. Martinez didn’t opt-out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox was because he couldn’t be certain that he’d find a better offer in free agency.
Martinez will be paid $23.75 million in 2020 and just shy of $62.5 million over the next three years if he doesn’t exercise any of his opt-out clauses. That’s a lot of money to give up without any assurances that a more lucrative payday is waiting for him elsewhere.
It appears Martinez was wise not to test this uncertainty in the wake of Jose Abreu‘s three-year, $50 million extension with the Chicago White Sox. If that’s all Abreu was able to make, what chance does Martinez have of earning significantly more?
Martinez would arguably be the best hitter on the market if he opted for free agency but his defensive limitations keep him out of the top-tier in this class, where Anthony Rendon stands alone among position players.
It would be a stretch to assume that Martinez would match the $73 million that Yasmani Grandal received from the White Sox or the $75 million that MLB Trade Rumors projects for Josh Donaldson. Both fall on the wrong side of 30 but still produce at the plate and provide value defensively. Martinez is primarily a DH and a defensive liability when he does play the outfield. That has to be considered when weighing his value against other free agents who are less one-dimensional.
The closest comparison to Martinez in this year’s crop of free agents is Abreu. They are both 32-year old sluggers who provide little defensive value. Abreu remains a capable first baseman but he should ease into more frequent DH duties over the course of his extension.
Martinez is a better overall hitter but Abreu can still produce at an All-Star level. Abreu led the American League with 123 RBI this year and he’s bashed 30+ home runs in four of his six MLB seasons. Abreu’s 33 homers this year were only three fewer than Martinez’s total.
Abreu owns a career .293/.349/.513 slash line compared to Martinez’s .294/.357/.537. Martinez had a higher peak but their overall resumes are quite similar and the results form this season suggest we shouldn’t expect a significant gap in their production moving forward.
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The market for Martinez would have already been limited by the perception that he’s best suited as a DH, eliminating National League teams from consideration. His salary demands rule out most small market teams that don’t have the luxury of splurging on the top free agents. The White Sox were once rumored to be interested in Martinez but it’s unlikely they would have pursued him after spending on Grandal and Abreu. The list of potential suitors dries up fast.
Would Martinez top the $50 million or average annual value of $16.6 million that Abreu received? Probably, but not by enough. If that’s what Abreu is worth, it’s hard to see Martinez getting more than $62.5 unless he signed for more than three years. Even in that case, there’s no way his average annual value would be higher than what he’s making with the Red Sox this year.
Martinez would have risked leaving money on the table by testing free agency. He may reconsider when he has another opportunity to opt-out next year when his salary falls to $19.35 million but it appears that he made the right choice by staying in Boston for now.