J.D. Martinez has declined to exercise the opt-out provision in his contract and will therefore remain with the Red Sox for 2022, as reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network. His original five-year deal with the club prior to the 2018 season contained three opt-outs: after the second, third and fourth years of the deal. Martinez has now declined to opt out for a third consecutive year and will play out the final season of the contract on a salary of $19.35MM.
This was a decision that really could have gone either way, as Martinez himself admitted in September that he was “right in the middle” about it. On the one hand, Martinez bounced back from an awful showing in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign with a solid performance in 2021. His slash line this year was .286/.349/.518, good enough for a wRC+ 128 and 2.9 fWAR. There is also the fact that a universal DH is widely expected to be implemented for next year, which would open up the slugger’s market considerably, since he’s primarily a DH and only suited to occasional outfield duty. (He played 148 games this season but only took the field in 38 of them.)
But on the other hand, the Collective Bargaining Agreement is expiring December 1st, creating an offseason with a high degree of uncertainty and the potential for a labour stoppage or transaction freeze. Furthermore, if Martinez opted out of his $19.35MM guarantee, he would certainly be offered an $18.4MM qualifying offer by the Red Sox, meaning the 34-year-old would be wading into that uncertain market with draft pick forfeiture attached to him, thus dampening his earning potential.
Martinez will now stick around Boston for one more year as the Red Sox try to repeat their surprising 92-win campaign that carried them all the way to the ALCS. He figures to be the regular DH and occasionally manning the field to give a breather to regulars Enrique Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe and Alex Verdugo. If he has another strong year at the plate, he would certainly be a candidate to receive a qualifying offer a year from now, assuming that system survives the upcoming CBA negotiations in tact.