Eyebrows were raised from Charlestown to South End today when, at the questioning of Boston Globe report Pete Abraham, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez seemed to express ambivalence about the prospect of returning to the team in 2020 (link). Martinez has a much-discussed opt-out to consider this offseason, and Abraham asked him whether the prospect of joining his fourth team in five years is truly an attractive one. “I don’t mind moving around,” Martinez told the reporter. “I kind of like it.”
That’s hardly the sort of “I love being here” boilerplate you often hear when players are asked about potential opt-outs or extension prospects. It may be a bit dramatic to read too much into the comments of a player likely eager to conclude what has been a frustrating season in Beantown, but the 32-year-old will indeed have a difficult decision to make this offseason. As part of the five-year/$110MM deal he signed with Boston in February of 2018, Martinez has an opt-out this offseason that would pay him $2.5MM if he elects to forego the remaining three years and $62.45MM on his contract. Essentially, Martinez will have to reconcile his desire to stay in Boston long-term with the ability of his agent Scott Boras to find a deal elsewhere in excess of that $62.45MM guarantee.
If Boras wants to market Martinez as the best DH option on the vine this season, he will no doubt be able to assemble some convincing presentations. Though this season didn’t quite see the former Astro, Tiger, and Diamondback replicate the offensive assault he placed on baseballs in the previous two years (170 and 167 wRC+ figures in 2018 and 2017, respectively), he still mounted a .305/.383/.559 line in 2019–output resulting in a 139 wRC+.
Though the market has not been kind to corner/DH types in recent years, Martinez should represent a more appealing free agent option than, say, Edwin Encarnacion, over whom the Yankees hold a $20MM club option; Nelson Cruz, still a Statcast darling at age 39, could challenge Martinez for DH supremacy among free agents, but the Twins would be smart to exercise that player’s $12MM club option for 2020.
Put another way: it’s quite possible that this year’s DH market will consist of Martinez, Avisail Garcia, and a handful of past-30 question marks like Mark Trumbo. If Martinez’s comments to Abraham are any indication, that might be a market context he is willing–if not eager–to place himself within.