Outfielder J.D. Martinez will not opt out of his contract with the Red Sox, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). The 32-year-old Martinez had the option of collecting a $2.5MM buyout to forgo the remaining three years and $62.5MM on his contract but will instead once again serve as Boston’s primary designated hitter in 2020.
Martinez, signed to a five-year, $110MM contract prior to the 2018 season, enjoyed a career-year with in the first season of that deal, hitting .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs. He followed that up with a terrific .304/.383/.557 slash through 657 trips to the plate.
That excellence at least created the possibility of Martinez opting out, but the market was also a poor one for Martinez, given the lack of contending clubs (or hopeful contenders) with an opening at designated hitter. The Astros (Yordan Alvarez), Angels (Albert Pujols/Shohei Ohtani) and Twins (Nelson Cruz), for instance, all have solidified options there. The Yankees have a number of options to rotate through their DH slot (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Mike Ford and Greg Bird among them). Other clubs, including the Rays, Indians and incumbent Red Sox all face varying degrees of payroll issues. National League teams, surely, would be reluctant to issue a multi-year pact to a player with such defensive limitations.
Beyond the clearly sub-optimal market factors, Martinez will have another bite at the free-agent apple next year via a second opt-out provision in the aforementioned five-year deal. He’ll now earn $23.75MM in 2020 before having the opportunity to test free agency again next winter when he’ll have two years and $38.75MM remaining on his contract.
The decision has significant long-term ramifications for the team as well. Already, there have been rumors about the Red Sox shopping 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts this winter as he heads into his final season of club control. Some of that is tied to the fact that the Betts has, to this point, insisted upon testing the free-agent market rather than explore a potential extension, but Boston’s luxury tax situation is also a clear factor. The Red Sox are currently $28MM over the luxury tax threshold, placing them firmly into the second tier of penalties. Had Martinez opted out of his deal, they’d have seen $22MM subtracted from that luxury ledger, but they’ll now likely search for alternative means of reducing their levels of penalization.