Nov. 14: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Boras and Martinez have set an early asking price of $210MM over the life of a seven-year term.
Nov. 8: Teams that have spoken to agent Scott Boras about new client J.D. Martinez have come away with the impression that Boras and Martinez are seeking a deal in the vicinity of $200MM in total guarantees, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Martinez hired Boras as his new representative just days before the free-agent period began.
It’s a jarring number to see associated with the 30-year-old Martinez, though he certainly helped his case with an otherworldly season at the plate. Though Martinez missed the first five-plus weeks of the season due to a ligament injury in his foot, he nonetheless swatted 45 home runs in a career year at the plate. On the whole, Martinez slashed a ridiculous .303/.376/.690 with a career-high 10.8 percent walk rate through 489 plate appearances between the Tigers and D-backs.
In addition to his newfound plate discipline, Martinez’s 49 percent hard-contact rate was the best in the Majors of any player with at least 450 plate appearances. That stat may even undersell the extent to which he impressed in that regard; the next-highest percentage was Joey Gallo’s mark of 46.4 percent. Statcast data pegged Martinez’s average exit velocity of 90.8 mph 15th among players that put at least 100 balls in play this past season, and he ranked third in the league in barrel percentage and tied for fourth in total number of barreled balls despite the early-season layoff.
There’s little point in doubting Martinez’s status as an elite bat after his impressive four-year run between Detroit and Arizona, but he still comes with plenty of red flags. Martinez has tallied 1973 innings in right field over the past two seasons and turned in an awful mark of -27 Defensive Runs Saved (though 2017’s mark of -5 was a noted improvement over 2016’s ghastly -22). Ultimate Zone Rating is similarly down on his glovework, rating him 25 runs below average. Statcast’s new Outs Above Average metricT suggested that Martinez converted five fewer outs than an average defensive outfielder would have in 2017. That he’s missed 85 games over the past two years due to injury and will turn 31 next August both figure to limit his earning capacity to some degree as well.
We ranked Martinez as the No. 2 free agent on the market this winter and pegged him for a six-year, $150MM deal. If Boras’ aim is to secure a $200MM payday for his newest client, though, he’ll need to broker a deal of at least seven years in length — if not eight. While that’s difficult to envision, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo landed seven year contracts in their recent trips through free agency, with Choo’s contract beginning in his age-31 campaign. A seven-year contract for Martinez is not outside the realm of possibility, though it also goes without saying that any agent would aim high entering free agency. While Martinez should have no shortage of teams with interest, there are very few clubs that can realistically afford to pay him at that level.
Boras spoke to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic about Martinez’s free-agent case and specifically referenced the free agencies of Ellsbury and Choo — both his clients — as well as fellow Boras clients Matt Holliday, Jayson Werth and Carlos Beltran. Boras indicated that he feels Martinez, who hit 40+ homers this season and has established himself as a .300 hitter, is a cut above that group (and above more recent cases like Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton) while entering free agency at a similar age. “It’s a very rare place. It’s a unique place,” said Boras. “…all of these guys that are at this level, they’re really good players. None of them were in the 45 [homer] and .300 [average] category.”
Asked whether he felt the Diamondbacks could be a realistic landing spot in free agency, Boras unsurprisingly suggested that he firmly believes that to be the case.
“You don’t sign Greinke and not sign this guy,” said Boras in a reference to Zack Greinke’s six-year, $206.5MM contract with the D-backs. “I mean, once you drop in the pool, you’re in the water. Once you’re in the water, it’s kind of hard to say you’re not wet.” Boras called D-backs owner Ken Kendrick a “competitive owner” and suggested that the onus will fall on Kendrick to increase payroll or find a way to fit the slugger onto the team’s books moving forward. Piecoro’s column is full of quotes from the polarizing Boras and is well worth a full read.