Red Sox: J.D. Martinez offers confusing response to his future in Boston

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 2: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox runs up the line after hitting an RBI single during the fifth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves on September 2, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 2: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox runs up the line after hitting an RBI single during the fifth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves on September 2, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

J.D. Martinez offers a mixed message for Red Sox

Ahead of yesterday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez spoke to the media via Zoom and the big topic on hand was the impending offseason. Free agency is looming for several players but for Martinez, things are a little different. Unlike some of his teammates, he isn’t automatically back on the market, he has to make a decision that could affect Boston for years to come.

As we saw after the 2019 season, Martinez has the ability to opt-out of his contract with the Red Sox and put himself back on the market. It’s a big decision and one that he didn’t waste much time in making last year, but the game has changed for the slugger, literally. We saw the debut of the Universal DH this season and there’s a feeling that it’ll become a full-fledged rule going forward. This opens the door big for Martinez as he now has a brand new list of suitors for his talents.

This is where J.D.’s comments got a little weird as he wasn’t very clear and was downright confusing at times. He waffled back and forth between not wanting to be a free agent while also hinting that he hasn’t chosen to opt-in for 2021 either. For the Red Sox, learning of his decision as early as possible will be massive in regards to how they play they free-agent market now that the CBT penalty marker has been reset.

Per Christopher Smith of 

"“I don’t know,” Martinez said about how players like Springer will be judged. “Honestly, that’s above my pay grade. I don’t know how that’s going to happen. I honestly feel I would not want to be a free agent during this time for that reason. You just don’t know. Everything’s up in the air. For guys like that, it’s just weird.”"

His response is based around soon to be free agent George Springer, who will likely be the belle of the offseason ball now that Mookie Betts is off the table. Martinez is right though, with only 60 games to judge a player’s worth, it’s hard to gauge what teams are going to offer. Just look at J.D.’s year for instance, he’s posting a .233/.315/.403/.718 line with just 3 homers and 17 RBI. Not exactly the kind of numbers you’d like to see from your DH nearly two months into the season.

The weird thing about Martinez is that he was absolutely crushing the ball in summer camp. However, as we’ve seen how awful the Boston pitching staff is, that may be more of a testament to their poor arms and not his hot bat. If he opts-out in hopes that he may find some greener pastures, he may be wildly disappointed.

Another factor we have to look at his is age, the DH is 33 and will be turning 34 as the season winds down in 2021. Not exactly a number that will make front offices want to open their checkbooks. When he was asked flat out if his lack of desire to test the market meant that he was staying put in Boston and foregoing his opt-out, J.D. got incredibly coy.

"“Negative,” Martinez said. “That was a slider. Did you stay back on it or you swung through it?”"

As I said earlier, though, Martinez had nothing but glowing things to say about the Red Sox and his time in Boston. He very well may not have made his decision yet, but when he gives those answers that play to both sides of the coin, it can be frustrating. Going forward, Boston will absolutely need him in the lineup, despite his horrid season.

He’s still one of the best hitters in the game today and his ability to mentor other players at the plate is key for the next manager. Losing him to free agency will cripple this team for a good while, so they need to make him confident in their future together. He’s also one of the few members of the current squad that was on the roster when the team won it all back in 2018, giving him a voice that not many in the clubhouse have.

"“Yeah, I mean I love Boston. I love playing here,” Martinez said. “I’ve always said it from the beginning that this fan-base suits my passion for the game. I always say, when you get booed, I’m probably booing myself more than they’re booing me. So I really don’t hear them. That really doesn’t bother me. I really don’t read into the media. So I don’t really get caught up in all that either, which is an easy (thing) to get caught up in in this city. So I just love the passion this year and obviously I’d love to stay here.”"

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One thing that I will say in his defense and that is he’s always been positive about the organization and city. Seemingly for the first time in his career, he’s had both the fans and team fully behind him and supporting him. He’s not just another name on the lineup card, he’s a key member of the team and when he’s off, everyone else isn’t far behind. He’s spoken in the past about wanting to re-work his deal to solidify it and remove the opt-outs, but nothing has come of those wishes.

Some may say that the opt-out clauses were a genius move by Dave Dombrowski, but they’ve done nothing but create unnecessary stress for everyone involved. Martinez hasn’t shown an inkling of the Lys Franc injury that once plagued him and has been moderately healthy since arriving in Boston. If Chaim Bloom is as smart as we believe him to be, he’d sit down with J.D. and Scott Boras and figure out a deal that keeps the slugger in a Red Sox uniform for the long-haul.

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I’ve always been a big fan of Martinez and he’s quickly become one of my favorite players on the current roster. He’s the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse not only because of his veteran presence but for his ability to cut through tension like a hot knife through butter. I know he can’t come out and render his decision this early in the process, but trying to play both sides won’t do him well in the long run either, just ask Mookie.