The Red Sox just named a new chief baseball officer in Chaim Bloom, but he may already be facing the departure of one of the team’s best players. Designated hitter/outfielder J.D. Martinez will have a chance to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5MM left on his contract within five days of the conclusion of the World Series, which could end Tuesday. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner recently met with Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, though owner John Henry said afterward the club’s still not sure whether JDM will exit his contract in the coming days.
On one hand, if Martinez goes back to free agency, it could give Boston the type of financial relief it’s seeking. The team’s seemingly hoping to get under the $208MM competitive-balance tax threshold for 2020, so erasing Martinez from its list of guarantees would be a boon in that regard. On the other, it’s hard to imagine a Red Sox team that just missed the playoffs improving without Martinez in the fold. The 32-year-old is only weeks removed from the end of another excellent offensive campaign, in which he slashed .304/.383/.557 (139 wRC+) with 36 home runs in 657 plate appearances. Martinez’s results this year weren’t as tremendous as they were from 2017-18 with the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Red Sox, though he was still unquestionably one of the premier hitters in the game. Statcast backed that up, crediting Martinez with a .402 expected weighted on-base average that tied him with Aaron Judge for ninth in baseball.
It’s pretty clear Martinez can still hit at an elite level. Still, it’s not clear whether he should opt out. He’d be leaving a substantial amount of money on the table in doing so, which could be especially risky for a 30-something whom the Red Sox would saddle with a qualifying offer. There was no QO hanging over Martinez’s head when he signed with Boston for five years and $110MM entering 2018, as he was part of a midseason trade during the prior campaign. He wouldn’t be so fortunate this time, and with teams seemingly veering away from giving up draft-pick compensation for aging free agents, Martinez may be in for a disappointing trip to the open market. That’s particularly true when considering his lack of defensive value, which could largely limit Martinez’s market to American League franchises that could use him as a DH.
It’s obvious Martinez is no slam dunk to opt out, but whether he does will be one of baseball’s most interesting stories in the coming days. If Martinez does leave behind what’s left of his Red Sox deal, though, how well do you think he’d do on his next pact?
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