Martinez had big (Papi) shoes to fill when he arrived at spring training in 2018, and he delivered immediately, slugging the Sox to their first championship without David Ortiz in exactly 100 years. In his first season with the club, he won two Silver Slugger awards, led MLB with a career-high 130 RBI and 358 total bases, and finished fourth in American League MVP voting. There was no game in 2020, but he’s been an All-Star in each of the other four years of his contract.
But after four mostly-stellar seasons in Boston (2020 was rough for everyone), his power declined at an alarming rate this year, which doesn’t bode well for free agency. Over 132 games this season, he’s hitting .272/.341/.433, with an OPS nearly 100 points lower than last season. He’s actually one double away from tying the career-high 42 he hit last year, which tied for the MLB lead, but the precipitous drop in homers has been a serious cause for concern. After homering 28 times in 148 games last year, he has just 13 homers this season – the fewest he’s hit in a full 162-game campaign since 2013 – and his ISO (Isolated Power) plunged from .232 to .161.
Now 35 years old, it doesn’t make much sense for the Sox to bring Martinez back. Had he had an incredible season, a Qualifying Offer would feel inevitable, but if they kept him for 2023 and he declined further, it would only sour his incredible time here.
Sometimes, it’s better to part on good terms and preserve fond memories.
Nathan Eovaldi is another beloved member of the historic 2018 team who’s about to hit free agency.
It’s been a disappointing season for Eovaldi, who’s looked more nasty than Nasty on the mound this year. Over 99 2/3 innings, he’s posted a 4.15 ERA and has allowed the second-most home runs of any season of his career. He’s also dealt with injuries that sidelined him for two stints on the Injured List. After tying for the league lead with 32 starts last season, he’s only made 18 starts this year.
Eovaldi has a lengthy injury history, but he’s still been a workhorse throughout his career. Aside from the shortened 2020 season and 2019, when he worked as both a starter and reliever, this will only be the third season of his career in which he hasn’t made at least 19 starts, and the first time since 2013.
However, the way that Eovaldi put this team on his back in the 2018 and 2021 postseason runs is a rare ability that sets him apart from other starting pitcher options the Sox will consider this winter. Until last year’s ALCS, Eovaldi had a 1.93 ERA over 32 2/3 career postseason innings. Even with the way the Astros hit him in the pennant series, he’s still one of the most incredible October workhorses the Sox have ever had.
It would be risky to extend a Qualifying Offer to Eovaldi, but it would be foolish not to at least consider it. The cons are well known, but the pros might outweigh them.