Free agent slugger J.D. Martinez is informing potential suitors that he would prefer to sign as an outfielder, according to a report from Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. Just how that will impact the ongoing recruitment process is not yet clear, but the report suggests it could mean the oft-linked Red Sox will need to boost their offer or clear outfield space to make a deal.
Of course, as Silverman also acknowledges, there are some potential bargaining advantages to be pursued from taking this particular stance. And the Boston organization is wary of being drawn into a one-team bidding war.
Agent Scott Boras suggested at the Winter Meetings that Martinez was amenable to serving as a designated hitter, even indicating that his client had “never said to me anything about” the matter. But it seems a somewhat different tone has been struck in talks with teams.
Ample uncertainty remains in Martinez’s free-agent outlook. At this point, the Red Sox are perhaps the only clear suitor that can afford Martinez. His former team, the Diamondbacks, has also been directly connected but seemingly lacks the current financial capacity to fit the kind of salary that’ll be needed to lure the slugger. Likewise the Giants are attempting a financial tightrope walk that makes it somewhat difficult to imagine Martinez fitting (at least, at the rate of pay he’d prefer). A few other teams are rumored to be looking at the market’s best hitter, though it’s not really evident which are serious participants.
At the very least, the report suggests that, while Martinez might be willing to sign on as a DH, he’d require a sweetener to do so — at this stage of the proceedings, at least. (Indeed, Martinez has indicated he’d sign as a DH/outfielder for Boston, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets.) Boras has never been afraid to wait out the market for his clients, with notable power hitters such as Prince Fielder and Chris Davis scoring huge contracts in late January.
No doubt the Red Sox are interested in landing Martinez — Silverman calls him the organization’s “first choice” — but at a palatable price. The team could line up a trade of Jackie Bradley Jr. to make way for Martinez in the outfield while perhaps also making a move for Eric Hosmer or another option at first base, though president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski threw cold water on the idea of a Bradley trade. If Boston’s preference is to utilize Martinez as a DH while holding onto Bradley, it seems the sides will wait to see who blinks first.