Red Sox would have extended a qualifying offer
The Arizona Diamondbacks weren’t able to extend a qualifying offer when Martinez hit free agency after the 2017 season since they acquired him in a deadline deal. That means he’s still eligible to get a qualifying offer from the Red Sox the next time he reaches free agency.
If Martinez declined the qualifying offer, another club would be forced to forfeit a draft pick in order to sign him. That penalty needs to weigh into the decision for those interested teams, which could limit the player’s market. Many players who decline the offer are superstars who are worth giving up a draft pick to acquire. For a designated hitter entering his mid-30s, it’s a more difficult decision, even when the bat remains as productive as Martinez’s.
It’s possible that Martinez would have accepted the qualifying offer if he had opted out. It would have meant a pay cut from the $19.35 million on his player option to the $18.4 million qualifying offer. The tradeoff of a short-term reduction in salary is that it would have allowed Martinez to enter free agency next year without being encumbered by a qualifying offer, since teams can only pull that card on a player once.
By opting in, Martinez gets his full $19.35 million for the 2022 season and kicks the decision down the road for another year. It’s possible that the new CBA will eliminate qualifying offers or drastically alter the terms of those offers in a player-friendly way. He avoids the headaches of being a free agent attached to a qualifying offer in an uncertain labor market and potentially avoids it completely if the new CBA turns out favorably to players in his situation.