J.D. Martinez hopes to stick with the Boston Red Sox
J.D. Martinez had an opportunity to opt-out of his contract to test free agency in each of the last three years. It had been speculated that the reasons he decided against triggering that escape clause varied between his market being limited by his role as a designated hitter and his abysmal 2020 campaign torpedoing his value. The answer might actually be much simpler. Perhaps Martinez wants to play for the Boston Red Sox.
Martinez addressed the media on Monday following his arrival for training camp at JetBlue Park. The four-time All-Star is entering the final season of the five-year deal he signed prior to the 2018 season, when his addition to the lineup helped fuel the Red Sox to a franchise-record win total and a World Series title.
Naturally, his uncertain future became a topic of conversation. The Red Sox only have him under contract for one more year but Martinez’s preference would be to stay with the franchise for the remainder of his career, according to MLB.com’s Ian Browne.
"“I would love it,” said Martinez. “I’ve expressed where I stand with the team and I would love to finish my career here.”"
While it appears that Martinez is open to an extension, don’t expect the Red Sox to rush into offering him a new deal. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be interested in bringing him back next year, but it makes sense to retain the flexibility of allowing his contract to come off the books before evaluating his fit on the roster next winter.
The highly anticipated arrival of Triston Casas will inevitably cut into the playing time for other players on the roster, most notably first baseman Bobby Dalbec. Boston’s infield could get even more crowded when several of the top prospects in their system graduate within the next few years. The designated hitter spot might be needed in order to fit everyone in the lineup, which would make the Red Sox hesitant to lock in Martinez on a multi-year extension.
Boston might not wait until after the season to create more flexibility with the DH spot. According to MassLive’s Christopher Smith, Martinez acknowledged the feeling that he could be traded still lingers, especially now that his expiring contact is more palatable for anther team to absorb. The new collective bargaining agreement enhanced his trade value by implementing the universal DH and increasing the luxury tax thresholds.
Trading Martinez would create a significant void in the lineup but it’s one they could fill by re-signing fan-favorite Kyle Schwarber to take his place in the DH role. Boston could then pivot to filling right field with another option who provides more defensive value, such as Seiya Suzuki.
The Red Sox could take advantage of the fire sale in Oakland by swinging a deal for Matt Chapman. Acquiring the three-time Gold Glove award winner to cover the hot corner and moving the defensively-challenged Rafael Devers to the DH spot would significantly upgrade one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.
Boston has money to spend under the terms of the new CBA but unloading Martinez’s salary opens the door to more possibilities. Freeing up the DH role expands upon those options. If the Red Sox were to trade Martinez, they aren’t going to simply pocket the savings. The trade would be a precursor to another move, perhaps a series of moves, designed to improve the team this season and beyond.
Or they could stick with Martinez, at least for this season and possibly beyond. While there are some drawbacks to investing heavily in a one-dimensional player, there’s nothing wrong with anchoring the line up with a bat that is still capable of flirting with a .300 average, 30 homers and 100 RBI. Last year’s bounce-back campaign proved that Martinez still has plenty left in the tank and when he’s at his best, there isn’t another player available on the market who can match his potential at the plate.
It should also matter that Martinez wants to be here. He has embraced this city and the passion of the Red Sox fan base. He’s proven that he can handle the pressure of this market and be a winner in this environment. There’s value in those traits that they can’t necessarily count on when seeking alternative options. There are several reasons for the Red Sox to consider letting Martinez walk in free agency after the season or trading him before he gets that chance. Maybe the reasons that matter most are the ones that should convince the team to let him stay.