J.D. Martinez took stock of the potential for the 2020 major league season to offer a distorted view of a player, how a 60-game sample means that one good month or one bad month could have enormous sway over how the market responds to a free agent.
He was asked how this might influence the free agent possibilities of someone such as Astros star George Springer, who has struggled to a .194/.331/.388 line in his final year before reaching the market.
“Honestly that’s above my pay grade,” Martinez said on a Zoom call Thursday before the Red Sox opened a four-day, five-game series against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. “I don’t know how that’s going to happen. I would not want to be a free agent during this time for that reason. You just don’t know.
“Everything is up in the air for guys like that. It’s just weird.”
Of course, that observation has direct relevance for him as well. The 33-year-old Martinez, who has been among the elite in the game since his reinvention as a hitter in the 2013-14 offseason, has seen his production nosedive this season. Going into Thursday night, he was hitting .218/.305/.387 with just three homers.
That poor performance has implications for Martinez moving forward. While he is in the third year of a five-year, $110 million deal, he has the right to opt out after the 2020 and 2021 seasons. (He also had the right to opt out after 2019, but declined to do so.)
The designated hitter is owed $38.7 million over the next two years. So, should the combination of his current struggles and what he said about not wanting to be a free agent under such circumstances be seen as a commentary on his own future in Boston?
“Negative,” he said flatly.
Even for those whose performances do not fall below their career track records, it’s possible that lost industry revenues in 2020 and likely 2021 resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could serve as a drag on spending.
“I mean, you can’t really read into that either,” said Martinez. “I feel like the owners have been saying that for as far as I’ve been playing baseball. They never have money and they’re always scuffling for money. I feel like you can’t read that far into that.”
Martinez suggested that he’s less focused on his future in Boston than he is the present.
“I’ve got to worry about what’s in front of me today, and the challenge I have facing [Blue Jays starter] Taijuan Walker tonight,” he said. “At this point in my life and this point in my time, what I’m thinking about is not even about the opt-out or even anything like that. I’m really focusing on right now.”
While Martinez and the Red Sox in general are enduring awful performances in 2020, he said he continues to value the idea of playing in Boston — given both his expectation that the Red Sox will field contending teams (this year notwithstanding) and the standards to which players are held here.
“I love Boston,” he said. “I love playing here. I’ve always said it from the beginning that this fan base suits my passion for the game. I just love the passion that’s here and obviously I’d love to stay here.
“I always feel that Boston is always going to be good. They always have a chance to win every year.
“Right now we’re going through that period, that transition of 2018 to now, with everybody leaving and stuff like that. That’s not saying in a year or two, or two or three years, they’re going to be back on top again.”