After months of speculation, Boston’s biggest bat JD Martinez has decided not to opt out of his contract, and plans to remain with the Red Sox in the 2020 season.
Martinez signed a 5-year, $110 million deal with the Sox at the start of the 2018 season, and was a driving force in reinvigorating the offense, who’d finished last in the American League in home runs the season before.
In his first two seasons with the club, Martinez slashed .317/.392/.593 with a combined 79 home runs and 235 RBI. Memorable moments include a 1st-inning home run off Yankees pitcher JA Happ in the 2018 ALDS, and him becoming the first player in MLB history to win two Silver Sluggers in the same season.
Of course, Martinez choosing not to opt out doesn’t mean he’s staying. The Red Sox intend to lower their payroll considerably in 2020, and his $23.75 million is a considerable chunk of change. No one is safe, which is ridiculous when you consider how wealthy the Red Sox are. Hopefully, the 2017 season, the lackluster bridge between David Ortiz and JD Martinez, will remind them of how vital a big bat is to the Boston lineup.
The other factor in the puzzle that is the 2019-2020 offseason is Mookie Betts. He’s announced his firm intent to test free agency next winter, and will command a lot of money as a now 4-time Gold Glover and 2018 AL batting champ and MVP. Number one on the front office’s priority list this winter is figuring out if they can entice Mookie to stay (and if they can afford him) or if they will need to trade him this year, and if so, how they can get the most bang for the Betts buck. A player of his caliber is exceptionally rare, and the situation should be handled with the delicacy with which one handles a newborn baby, because worst-case scenario, the Sox trade JD and lose Mookie to free agency, and then have nothing. But hey, at least the payroll would be pennies!
It’s also important to note that Martinez’s value and reach extend far beyond his bat. He is known for his studiousness and diligence when it comes to improving himself, and his practices rubbed off on his teammates, like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rafael Devers. He’s known for having each batting practice taped so he can study his swing, as well as keeping meticulous notes and watching hours of pitcher footage, like his DH predecessor David Ortiz. The payoff from Martinez’s influence on his teammates is incalculable. Well, actually, it amounted to the Sox winning 108 regular season games and bulldozing their way to their 4th championship in 15 years.
It makes sense that Martinez wants to stay in Boston. The free agent market is no cakewalk for players, even power bats. In his last foray into free agency, Martinez and his superagent Scott Boras were looking for a deal upwards of $200 million; they didn’t even come close, though the Red Sox are definitely underpaying him at $110. While he’s beefed up his resumé since then, he’s also two years older and not a skilled defensive player, which makes him undesirable for the DH-less National League. And while I’m sure other clubs like the Sox in Chicago were interested, they’re not close to an October team yet; JD Martinez is in his 30s, and I bet he’d like to play some more postseason ball while he can. And despite a disappointing season plagued with injuries and underperforming, the club finished with an over-.500 record. Under the leadership of new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, the team could be poised for postseason again as soon as October 2020, if they’re lucky and healthy. Martinez’s agent Scott Boras told reporters that his client wants to play where he feels he can be “highly productive.”
So, mark JD Martinez down for 50 homers next season. Hopefully in Boston, with Mookie Betts batting leadoff so JD can drive him in.
Photo: AP Photo/ Steven Senne