The odds appear slim that the Red Sox will trade two of their top stars.
The Boston Red Sox are sellers as the trade deadline approaches but this is hardly a full blown fire sale. This club fully expects to contend again in the near future with a healthier rotation and a more flexible budget so it would take a significant offer for the Red Sox to even consider parting with one of their core players.
We’ve come to learn the hard way from the Mookie Betts trade that nobody is untouchable. Whispers continue to grow as the deadline approaches that the Red Sox could look to blow up the roster for a full rebuild by dealing some of their top talent. While that appears unlikely, insiders aren’t ruling out the possibility.
Appearing on the Big Time Baseball podcast with Tony Gwynn Jr., MLB Network’s Jon Heyman predicted the odds of the Red Sox trading J.D. Martinez or Xander Bogaerts. The odds were set comfortably in favor of these players staying in Boston through the deadline yet the numbers were high enough to leave us wondering if there is indeed a chance they could be on the move.
“I would say Xander Bogaerts has a shot to be traded,” Heyman said. “I’m going to put that at 20%. I’d say that J.D. Martinez, who also has an opt-out and makes $19 million a year — that’s a tough contract for a DH, even though all the teams use a DH this year — I think it’s not going to be that easy to move him. I would say it’s a greater likelihood. 25%, I’ll put for J.D. Martinez, (Bogaerts’) teammate, to be moved.”
Odds within the 20-25 percent range are too high to simply be ignored but it’s not a reason to panic either. Another way to look at it is that there is at least a 75 percent chance that they will stay. I’ll take those odds.
The reason to consider trading Martinez is almost entirely tied to the opt-out provision in his contract. He passed on the same opportunity to test the market last winter but circumstances have changed. With his salary falling from $23.75 million this year to $19.35 million in each of the next two seasons, plus the possibility that the universal DH becomes a permanent change, the open market may seem more appealing to Martinez. If he wants a shot at one last big contract, this offseason is the time to strike rather than waiting until he’s about to enter his age 35 season.
We also have to consider how much of a toll this miserable season has taken on Martinez. With the end of his prime approaching within the next few years, Martinez needs to be convinced that the Red Sox will be ready to contend again soon.
Chaim Bloom needs to sit down for a serious conversation with Martinez about his future. He needs to assure him that this year’s disaster won’t be allowed to continue. That the expected returns of Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez will save the floundering rotation. That ownership will permit him to spend more money to fix other holes on the roster. If Bloom gets the feeling that Martinez intends to opt-out, he has to explore options to trade him now.
If Martinez expresses interest in staying or any indication that he’s buying into Bloom’s plans, he’s a keeper. Losing his bat would create a massive void in the middle of the lineup that they won’t come close to filling without spending significantly more money than Martinez is owed on his remaining contract – money that they would much rather spend on upgrading the pitching staff.
The ideal scenario would be that Martinez agrees to opt-out in order to sign a new deal that tacks on more years at a lower average annual value. That provides the slugger with more long-term security while creating more flexibility in the budget for luxury tax purposes. It’s a realistic scenario that could benefit both sides but the Red Sox need to believe Martinez is open to the idea in order for them to feel safe holding him through the deadline.
The odds of Bogaerts being traded are thin, as is the case for why the Red Sox would even consider the concept.
The main reason for the rumors surrounding Bogaerts are tied to some provisions in his contract. He has the ability to opt-out after the 2022 season. He also gains a full no-trade clause that kicks in shortly after this year’s trade deadline. The concern is that if they don’t trade Bogaerts now, they might not get a chance later. If this rebuild takes longer than expected then Bogaerts could get tired of waiting and opt out in a couple of years. The no-trade provision would limit their options if they wanted to shop him before he has the chance to leave them for nothing.
That seems unlikely to happen. The Red Sox have had poor seasons in recent memory due to a rash of injuries and poor management but they always bounce back. They went from last place in a horrifically painful 2012 season to winning the World Series the following year and then back to the basement again. Within two years, Boston was back in the playoffs and celebrated another championship a couple years after that. The last decade has been a roller coaster for this organization but they never stay down for long. With their resources, it’s hard to imagine this rebuild lasting long enough to tempt Bogaerts to leave.
Bogaerts has been adamant about his desire to stay in Boston. He signed a team-friendly $120 million extension last spring that keeps him in a Red Sox uniform through at least 2025 if he doesn’t opt out. The next couple of years would need to go horribly wrong for Bogaerts to change his stance and bolt for greener pastures.
Bloom is naturally formulating a plan to right the ship before it gets to that point. While we can never say with any certainty that his plan will work, we have to assume that Bloom expects it to pan out. In that case, building around Bogaerts should be a big part of that plan.
Never say never. If another team desperate to go all in this year offers a massive haul headlined by multiple top prospects or a front line starting pitcher, Bloom would be foolish not to at least consider it. That’s why the odds of a trade are well above zero but since contenders are unlikely to offer a king’s ransom in this uncertain shortened season, those odds are still heavily against either former All-Star getting dealt at the deadline.