After a months-long standoff between the Red Sox and then-free agent J.D. Martinez prior to the 2018 season, the team finally landed the slugger on a five-year, $110MM guarantee in February. The contract has worked out brilliantly so far for the Red Sox, whom Martinez helped to a World Series title to cap off an incredibly productive 2018. While Martinez hasn’t been as excellent this season, the designated hitter/outfielder has still managed outstanding production for the sixth straight year.
Once the season concludes, Martinez will have a decision to make on whether to stick with his contract or opt out of it and test free agency again. Martinez will be 32 years old by then, and vacating the deal would mean passing on a guaranteed $62.5MM for a free-agency mystery box. However, Martinez doesn’t seem ready to rule out taking the gamble. Asked Monday if he’d consider opting out, Martinez told Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com it’s in agent Scott Boras’ hands.
“For me, I just listen to him,” Martinez said. “That’s what I pay him for. He gives me his opinion, he gives me his advice and it’s up to me after that to make my decision. We’re really not there yet, where he’s given me his opinion and his advice. So I think we have to see how it plays out.”
Back when Boras and Martinez were negotiating with Boston, medical concerns on the team’s behalf helped hold up an agreement. Martinez appeared in just 119 games in 2017 as a Tiger and Diamondback after a Lisfranc injury in his right foot kept him from debuting until mid-May. The issue led to wariness from the Red Sox, which left Martinez “very confused.” The club eventually got Martinez to accept making the last two years of his pact (2021-22) mutual options should he suffer a Lisfranc injury or other significant right foot complications. But Martinez has been durable as a Red Sox, and he expressed confidence to Cotillo that concerns about his foot rest with their doctor – not other doctors around the league.
If other teams aren’t worried about Martinez’s foot, it could influence whether he revisits the open market in a few months. That said, $60MM-plus would be a lot to leave on the table for a defensively limited 30-something who’d be saddled with a qualifying offer. Players who check one or two of those boxes, let alone three, haven’t fared great in free agency in recent years. It could be all the more concerning to clubs that Martinez’s offensive numbers, while still impressive, have dropped precipitously compared to 2017-18. In fairness to Martinez, though, he posted a 1.000-plus OPS in each of the previous two second halves. A similar tear this season could give the three-time All-Star and Boras something to think about once Boston’s season ends.