Red Sox chairman Tom Werner met recently with agent Scott Boras regarding the contractual status of slugger J.D. Martinez, as Christopher Smith of MassLive.com was among those to report, but there’s still no clarity as to whether Martinez will remain with the Boston organization for 2020 and beyond. Martinez can opt out of the three years and $62.5MM left on his contract, with a decision due five days after the conclusion of the World Series.
That’s one of several opt-out calls that Boras will be making with his clients. There have been some indications over recent months that Martinez is at least pondering a return to the open market. When we polled MLBTR readers late in the season, it came down as a fairly close call, with just under 57% of respondents expecting Martinez to stay in Boston.
Martinez’s representative did not give the Red Sox a clear impression as to his current thinking, per owner John Henry. Neither did the team express any interest in hammering out a new deal that would override the in-or-out decision available to the veteran outfielder/DH. Given the club’s decision to pare back payroll, that’s not at all surprising. It’s quite possible that the club would rather Martinez walk, freeing up spending capacity to utilize in other, potentially more efficient manners. The ability to issue a qualifying offer and pick up draft compensation would also hold appeal.
That said, there’s no question the Red Sox are better with Martinez anchoring the lineup. The 32-year-old turned in a .304/.383/.557 batting line with 36 home runs in his second campaign in Boston. That wasn’t quite the monster showing he put up in 2017-18, but was still about forty percent better than the league-average hitter.
With just-inked chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom tasked with finding spending efficiencies to keep the BoSox competitive at a lower price point, it’d be surprising to see an expanded commitment to Martinez. But there was — and perhaps still is — at least a theoretical possibility of working out a new deal that spreads the cash owed over a lengthier stretch. But that would mean pushing deep into Martinez’s fourth decade, a decidedly risky proposition.
For much the same reason, it is far from clear that Martinez would benefit by opting out. As noted, his just-completed season was not especially excellent by his lofty standards. The qualifying offer would be a factor. The consensus among the MLBTR staff seems to be that Martinez might have trouble beating his remaining guarantee since there just isn’t a ton of obvious demand for players of his ilk on the marketplace. It’s possible to imagine him getting more money, but there’s certainly downside risk in an opt-out scenario.
It may well be that the sides will remain wedded for the time being. Boras already controls the market’s top names — including fellow opt-out candidate Stephen Strasburg — and would surely love the chance to dangle another top name when he’s making the rounds with ownership. But the super-agent has also shown ample respect (and disdain) for the power of the qualifying offer and knows the limits of earning power for aging, defensively limited hitters. In recent comments, Boras said he believes Martinez is capable of playing the corner outfield and certainly seemed to be launching his marketing campaign. But it’ll be a close decision and one that probably comes down to personal preference and risk tolerance on the part of Martinez.