The offseason could come sooner than expected for the reigning World Series champion Red Sox, whose playoff chances have dwindled in the year’s second half. Losers of nine of their past 11, the Red Sox sit a stunning 16 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and 5 1/2 back of a wild-card spot. The club has already lost more games in 2019 (56) than it did last regular season (54), and it still has 45 games to go.
Boston’s fall certainly hasn’t been the fault of designated hitter J.D. Martinez, who has been on another of his signature offensive rampages of late. After four straight multi-hit games, his line has climbed to .304/.379/.547 – one of its highest points of the season. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, these may be the final weeks with the club for Martinez. He’ll dive back into free agency if he opts out of his contract after the season, though he’s far from a lock to abandon his deal.
Returning to the open market – where the former Astro, Tiger and Diamondback joined the Red Sox on a five-year, $110MM contract back in February 2018 – would mean leaving a substantial amount of money on the table. However, while Martinez will still have another three years and $62.5MM left when this season concludes, he’s not ruling out another stab at free agency. Martinez said last month he plans to leave his future in the hands of famed agent Scott Boras.
Based on his production, Martinez has a case for more money than he stands to earn on his current deal. Martinez was one of the game’s greatest hitters in the handful of years preceding his Boston deal, and that hasn’t changed. Although Martinez’s numbers have markedly fallen off compared to where they were from 2017-18, that’s more a compliment to his output then than an indictment on what he has done this year. With 25 home runs in 479 plate appearances, Martinez is on pace for his third straight year with at least 30 HRs. His wRC+ (136) is tied with Anthony Rizzo and Josh Bell for 19th among qualified hitters, and his .408 expected weighted on-base average ranks quite a bit higher. Only fellow offensive luminaries Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Nelson Cruz, Christian Yelich, Anthony Rendon, Yordan Alvarez and Aaron Judge rank above Martinez in that department.
It’s fair to say Martinez remains an absolute force at the plate, then, and it would surely help his cause that he’d be a big fish in a fairly small free-agent pond. Aside from Rendon, a fellow Boras client and the lone pending free-agent position player who looks like a shoo-in for a $100MM-plus contract, Martinez would be the second-most appealing hitter available. Still, the soon-to-be 32-year-old and Boras might be leery of taking advantage of his opt-out. Free agency has been tough on even highly decorated 30-somethings in recent years, especially those who come with qualifying offers attached (just ask Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel).
Martinez didn’t receive a QO in his previous trip to free agency because it came after a midseason trade, but the Red Sox would no doubt saddle him with one during the upcoming winter. Plus, although he remains among the majors’ most formidable hitters, that’s essentially where all of Martinez’s on-field value comes from. Formerly a regular in the outfield, he’s easily on pace for his second straight season of fewer than 500 innings in the grass. That doesn’t mean Martinez’s offense won’t continue to make him immensely valuable going forward – former Red Sox DH David Ortiz and the aforementioned Cruz are two examples of offense-only players who’ve been tremendous even in the twilight of their careers. The lack of a real position still won’t do Martinez’s market any favors, though, especially considering there aren’t any near-term plans for the National League to implement the DH.
There’s no easy answer here for the Martinez-Boras tandem, who can either choose the bird-in-hand route or take a gamble on his bat leading him to even more cash than he’s due on his present pact. Without question, it’ll be one of the most interesting early offseason situations to watch. As of now, how do you expect it to play out?
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If he was having a year this year similar to last, MAYBE consider it. Otherwise he’s going to be 2 years older, perceivably declining, and limited to only 15 teams in an age where the DH is increasingly being used as a mulligan tool for flawed players.
@chicub_city The DH is a position meant for defensively challenged players or to rotate position players to get done rest. Would that not be the perfect place for JD? And he would not be the first bat first player to play in the NL.
I think he’ll opt out. He’s close to being a .300/.400/.500 guy and i think he’ll get 5/$125 from a team in need of offense.
Well, his actual ops is higher than a 300/.400/.500 guy. But regardless, he’ll be older, slightly less productive, and attached to draft pick compensation this time through if he opts out. I just don’t see it.
I don’t expect an opt out but a lot could depend on his perception of how the team will rebound next year. With all that money tied up in starters who thus year have been grossly overpaid, he may look elsewhere if he doesn’t think the pitching will improve. I love the guy and believe he’s passable as a corner outfielder 110 games a year. With an inter league schedule, a team that wants him can deal with it even in the NL. Look at the Snakes in 2017. That said, if he does opt out, it will give the team financial flexibility unlike this year.
Should cite some comps. Cruz last year is one which doesn’t bode well. Encarnacion few years ago another which again shows little upside for JD.
In terms of what his market would be like, the best comp might just be himself two years ago. He’s shown that he is a consistently elite offensive threat, but his market was slow enough developing then and now he’s two years older, still a pure DH, and has had back issues.
What back issues? The last two years he’s never been healthier.
Exactly. There’s enormous risk for a DH showing cracks in his armor who will be saddled by a QO bailing on a 3 year $62M contract to search for something more impressive.
Absolute best case scenario I would see is a 4 year $72M-ish deal. I see nobody paying more than that… and the floor is maybe 2yrs $35M.
No team is giving him a contract based on xwOBA… it’s a stat which is way too far out there. Considering Martinez’s .344 BABIP, I don’t see where the extra 35pts of wOBA is really going to come from.
>>”Based on his production, Martinez has a case for more money than he stands to earn on his current deal.”
I’d like to know the color of the sky in the world you’re living in? Have you seen free agency in the past 5 years? It ain’t gettin’ better for guys who will be 33 the year they sign, and have zero defensive abilities or natural positions.
Several seasons saw the reigning HR champ from that year waiting out friendlier markets than the current one.
If history has shown us anything, it’s that aging DH’s, signed as free agents in their 30’s, aren’t particularly valuable over the life of a contract.
He’d be an idiot to walk away from almost $70M in the sheer hope that some fool team might give him >$71M. He ain’t getting a hundo.
Agree with this completely. A 32 year old DH isn’t going to beat those figures or AAV substantially enough to make it worth the risk, but I think you’re off on the total value. There’s 62.5M left, not 70M. Basing this off saying he would need to do 71M. No hate, just clarifying that it’s closer to 60 than 70.
Pay the man!! Pay JD what he deserves. No cheap skates!!
Harper was 26 and he only got 25 mil per year. I think jd stays in Boston and if he has some great years he could turn that into some big one year deals.
Play it safe and stay put.
I think he gets 80 mil or so over 4 years, which is worth opting out for
…Martinez said last month he plans to leave his future in the hands of famed agent Scott Boras…
Martinez was lucky Boston still had an opening two years ago.
This. He had zero suitors for the Red Sox to bid against two years ago. That number isn’t going to go up.
@panacrane I think that was more because Boras’ ask was ridiculous. I’m sure he had other suitors they just never went deep into negotiations because those teams weren’t interested in offering a 6-8 year deal. If he goes in looking for a 4 year deal then someone might jump on it.
That’s if Boston actually wants to go after him. Maybe save the money for the more versatile Mookie Betts?
If the last 2 years of FA is any indication of how the market it now he doesn’t opt out. Team are not giving the big money long contracts anymore. Aging, declining numbers (yet still valuable) will definitely hamper him getting another long term contract.
I can see them re-working the contract in lieu of an opt-out. That way Martinez gets another signing bonus and perhaps an extra year or a higher AAV or something of that effect. I doubt anyone gives him 5+ years again.
What’s in it for Boston do accommodate a re-work? JDM has little/no leverage.
It’d be beneficial to lower the front end of the deal, keep the same AAV, throw on year for age 35 at a much higher amount maybe so they have some room to work in the next few years with adding other salaries
Well to start off there is a 2.5m buyout right off the top if he opts out. Then there is he fact that another team who could use a DH and has plenty of money to spend plays in NY. If they lose martinez the year after they miss the playoffs that won’t look good.
I agree. I think they give him an extra $5M or so per season and tack on a year, giving him a $27.5MM AAV over 4 years/$110M. That’s as much as he’d get on the open market in a very best case scenario and the Red Sox might like him and trust him enough to extend him, but otherwise he’s better off not opting out
Based on the free agency periods of the past few years, I don’t think the potential reward outweighs the risk for him to opt out. A 32 year old DH doesn’t seem likely to beat 3/62.5M at this point, even with his offensive output.
Oh, he is way underpaid at 21 million. Heard he only clears 11 million after taxes. Wow, what a shame.
Head to Texas. No state income tax!!
If I were Klentak, and Philly Brass. Go after JD, stick him in LF ala Pat the Bat. McClutch in CF, Kingery at 2B, Bohm at 3rd.
Then pay the stupid money to Cole. Bring in MadBum, and bring back Hamels.
Nola, Cole, MadBum, Hamels, Arrieta.
Deal with the Luxury Tax for a few yrs.
Deal the parts you don’t need for young decent controllable relievers.
Generally my philosophy is pay for bats trade for pitching, but this yr you gotta pay for it.
Man it’s real easy to sit there and spend $500mm of someone else’s money isn’t it?
“Stupid Money”. They’ll shed some salary. Franco, Hernandez, Velasquez, Eickoff. Maybe dump Arrieta with some minor leaguers.
124 M in salary, Realmuto the only significant Arb guy. Call it 25-30M in Arb overall. 208M is the threshold. Its doable if they dumped Arrieta.
Boras would be crazy to opt out. He is basically a DH at this point which halves his market. He is on a good team, that wants to win, suffering a WS hangover. It’s a good situation and he is being paid well. Why risk it?
Tough call. If the Red Sox go into rebuild mode or have to sell players because of financial concerns he way choose to opt out.
That’s absurd the Sox aren’t going into “rebuild mode” lol they’ll still have a payroll of over $200m even without JD. And also they just flat out don’t have the flexibility to do so even if they wanted. They still have essentially their entire core under contract for years to come. Betts is the only guy on a shorter term deal (last year of arb) and Porcello who, thank God, is a FA at years end.
No they won’t be over 200 w/o JDM…
Off the top
2019/20 subtractions (240+ presently)
– Sandoval 20 million
– Porcello 20 million
– Moreland/Pierce/ Nunez/ Thornburg etc, 20ish million
That’s 180 WITH JDM on the books for 2020 and there are other smaller saleries coming off the books as well….as a Red Sox fan I have enjoyed watching JDM, but if he wants to opt out I’ll pack his bag
Your analysis is spot on !
I think JDM stays as it’s a coin flip if he gets a better deal.
Th Sox aren’t going into any type of rebuild. Rebuilds are profitable because of “short money” (instant gratification); they’re catastrophic if you’re into “long money” (maintaining the brand).
And Henry/Werner are all about the long money.
They’ll either trade Betts and convince JD to stay, or do the opposite. PROBABLY not both. But OTOH, they have insane amounts of money to play with.
100% agree, Mookie is likely traded
The Sox would be ecstatic if he were to opt-out. They have to figure out how to pay Betts, get some bullpen (maybe SP) help, potentially Benny, are they keeping JBJ, who’s his replacement? The farm isn’t filled with top tier prospects for the OF or pitching replacements, trading in season will be tough so they gotta be active in the offseason and this will allow them some flexibility without his contract on the books.
Agreed, there is very little incentive for the Sox to re-work his current deal to prevent an opt-out given the financial considerations forward to their current roster let alone potentially adding to that roster in the near future.
If he indeed opts to stay, there will be some hard decisions to be made with the roster based on current and forward payroll.
Show Me Your Tatis
“The Sox would be ecstatic if he were to opt-out.”
If that is the case then there is no way in Hell JDM opts out. Players only opt out if the team doesn’t want them to. See Greinke, Cespedes, A-Rod.
After seeing the last 2 offseasons, I think it would be smart to stick with the guaranteed dough
Let him walk. Sign Mookie to a 7 year deal. Force Pedroia to retire (free up $) and offer him a coaching position.
JD Martinez can opt out following the 2020 season and 2021 season. Once he has another hot year, expect him to opt out. I bet he opts out after 2021 where he only has one year left on his contract. He will be 33.
JD will not opt-out. The odds are exceedingly low. Not only would he leave $62.5M on the table over the next three years, but his contract is front loaded. He will earn $23.75M in 2020, $19.35M in 2021, and $19.35M in 2020. He would be saddled with a Qualifying Offer that would add to the cost of another team signing him (and we’ve seen how that has played out in free agency the last couple years). Also, I don’t think a team would trust him in the OF full-time, which limits him to AL teams that: (1) are competitive and in win-now mode; (2) have an open spot at DH; and (3) have the money to spend. Outside of the Red Sox, I struggle to identify such a team. (I previously thought the Astros, but I don’t think they want Yordan Alvarez in the field either.) The smart money says he plays at least one more year with Boston and will re-evaluate the opt-out after 2020. But, he just might ride out the entire contract in Boston or try to leverage removing the opt-outs in return for an additional guaranteed year.
How much more is JD going to get?Would an AL team extend more than 4 years @$25 M?
Perhaps the Sox would encourage him to try the open market and give them a shot to better his best offer.
In either case it benefits the Sox—
Do you prefer JD or Mookie? Can’t have both.
Do you want the Sox to sign Bene long term?
Devers long term? Workman, ERod and perhaps
He’s not getting anywhere close to $25M AAV, even on a 1 year deal, but I think you’re right about the ceiling being 4yrs.
He can also opt out after 2020 or 2021.
Given that 1) he hasn’t been as good this year and 2) this year he makes $23,750,000 while in 2020 and 2021 he would only make $19,350,000 it makes sense to opt in and see if he can bounce back.
This would also giving him another year of data on the free agent market.
He gets a 2.5m buyout if he opts out this season
just too dangerous in this current climate for a OF/DH with past injuries to walk away from that contract.
I always thought that the agent works for the player
Way too risky. JD worked hard to get his 110 million so to throw 62 million into the fire would be horrible advice. If he’s 28 maybe, but a 32 year old DH? C’mon Boras can’t be that stupid!
He won’t opt out too much money on the table
As a Red Sox fan, I am fine with whatever he decides. I just think it wouldn’t be a good idea on his part to opt out. He had to “settle” for Boston’s offer last go around, and a QO would almost certainly make him have to settle again but for an even more disappointing deal than he currently has.
Martinez is having another great season but teams don’t pay as much for past performance anymore.
He’s 32,basically a DH,count the teams who would be willing and able to pay him more than 21 million a year for the next three seasons,no questions asked.
That’s why he won’t opt out..
Show Me Your Tatis
If you have to ask, the player probably won’t opt out. All the players who have had opt-outs and actually used them it was pretty obvious that they could do better in FA.
JD said he would like to finish his carear in Boston. Likes Boston for his family. For a chance of making several million on top of 20 plus million is a crap shoot. He seems to be a bright enough fellow. With his agent whispering into his ear he just might opt out and ‘bongo-billy’ his dreams. He has tens of millions and wants several more. Nah.