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Why J.D. Martinez may be emerging as the Red Sox’ top offseason target

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J.D. Martinez has 37 home runs (fourth most in the majors) in just 102 games this season.Ross D. Franklin

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The extent of the Red Sox' offense in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Rays consisted of a run-scoring single flicked over the head of the second baseman and a shallow fly ball that appeared deep enough to produce a sacrifice fly. (On the field, however, Christian Vazquez was ruled out.)

Once again, there were no homers. The season is well beyond the point where such a development comes as a surprise. The Red Sox have gone deep three times over their last eight games, without multiple homers in any of those contests.

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The team's 148 homers for the year are 13 fewer than any other team in the American League and 40 below the league average. Their opportunistic offense has clawed its way to 4.76 runs per game — almost exactly at the AL average of 4.74 — but it's doing so without any consistent power.

That pattern is unlikely to change this year. That doesn't rule out the possibility of an October run, but it does make clear a need for a middle-of-the-order upgrade this winter.

While Giancarlo Stanton has been identified as a natural Red Sox target, another player is making a compelling case that he should be the Red Sox' highest offseason priority. In Arizona, J.D. Martinez is showing the ability to deliver the same sort of elite, middle-of-the-order production as Stanton, continuing a four-year run that commenced in 2014 when then-Tigers president/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski plucked him after he'd been released by the Astros.

With two more homers in a 3-2 Diamondbacks win on Sunday, the 30-year-old now has eight in his last seven games (including a four-homer game Sept. 4) and an astonishing 37 (fourth most in the majors) in just 102 games this season. In 45 games since Arizona landed him from Detroit for a modest three-prospect package in July, Martinez is hitting .269/.342/.701 with 21 homers in 187 plate appearances.

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Though his enormous power to right-center might take a hit at Fenway, Martinez could offset some of that with more pulled balls clearing the wall in left. Meanwhile, it seems likely that he could make an oft-frequented venue such as Yankee Stadium look very small.

He has demolished lefties, posting a .390/.478/.909 line against them. His .909 slugging percentage and 1.387 OPS against lefties both rank among the top five in the last 100 years.

Martinez would represent the sort of lineup-changing presence the Sox have lacked this year. They are clearly intrigued by Martinez. Dombrowski knows him, and according to major league sources, the team did explore his availability from the Tigers at the trade deadline before Detroit opted for Arizona's prospect package.

There is a question of positional fit — evaluators believe he's solely a corner outfielder or DH, without the possibility of playing first — but he is the sort of bat for whom the Red Sox would have reason to make the pieces fit.

Meanwhile, whereas Stanton likely would command at least one Red Sox regular, Martinez is a free agent who would cost nothing but money — with his contract almost certain to come with a far shorter commitment than the 10 years still in front of Stanton. As a player who was traded in the middle of the season, he can't receive a qualifying offer from Arizona, meaning that there would be no draft-pick penalty for signing him.

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The Red Sox aren't yet at the point where they're charting their course for the winter — not with three weeks of the regular season and a likely stretch in October of unknown duration in front of them. But at a time when they must contemplate the prospect of facing October lineups that are deep in sluggers, it's hard not to look ahead to figure out whether there is a fix, something that may have them turning an eye toward the desert.


Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier.