JD Martinez sets new career mark amidst uncertain free-agent future

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 28: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a double during the sixth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 28, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 28: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a double during the sixth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 28, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Having a down season in a contract year is pretty much the worst-case scenario for a baseball player.

For a 35-year-old designated hitter like JD Martinez, it’s considerably worse.

In the final year of what turned out to be an absolute bargain of a contract for the Boston Red Sox, Martinez’s power has really fallen off a cliff. After hitting 43 homers in 2018, 36 in 2019, and 28 homers in 2021, he only collected his 14th round-tripper on Thursday afternoon.

As a player whose value is determined almost primarily by his bat, that doesn’t bode well for free agency. Instead of letting his performance at the plate reel teams in, Martinez will need to convince someone to bank on his ability to bounce back.

But it hasn’t been all bad. In fact, on Thursday, Martinez set a new career-high with his 43rd double of the season. It’s his second consecutive 40+ double season, a benchmark he’d never reached in the first decade of his career.

Martinez and Phillies slugger Bryce Harper tied for the MLB lead in doubles last season, and the Sox DH entered Thursday’s game leading the American League in the metric. Being able to finish this season leading the way in two-baggers would somewhat offset the dip in home-run production.

Where will JD Martinez sign in free agency?

The Sox are almost guaranteed to thank Martinez for his contributions and wish him well in future endeavors. They have not discussed an extension, so Martinez expects to be wearing another uniform next year. Knowing that, he outlined his hopes for free agency earlier this week:

"“I’d like to keep playing another two years, at least. Hopefully I’ll be in a situation where I know I can be successful. A team that’s winning and will get the best out of me.”via Boston Globe"

It’s worth noting that Martinez began the year hitting well, and had an enormous month of May. He really fell off a cliff in June, and as injuries piled up and morale plummeted in July and August, his numbers got even worse. But in the final month of the season (entering Thursday), he’s hitting .270/.349/.460, a significant improvement over his June-August struggles.

Hopefully, he finds what he’s looking for this offseason.

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