LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — If nothing else — and there really was nothing else tangible — the Red Sox were able to meet with free agent J.D. Martinez at the Winter Meetings.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager Alex Cora were among those who represented the Sox at a meeting with Martinez and agent Scott Boras on Wednesday night, several major league sources said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Dombrowski told reporters he had not yet met with any players. On Thursday morning, when asked again, Dombrowski declined comment.
“Read into that what you will,” he said.
That the Red Sox are more focused on Martinez than first baseman Eric Hosmer was the biggest takeaway from the meetings. Martinez, who hit 45 home runs last season, offers the Sox a direct path to adding power to their lineup without having to make a trade that would carve into the core of the major league roster.
Boras prefers to let the market develop, so Martinez will not be in a hurry to make a decision. But his other options may be limited.
The Arizona Diamondbacks would welcome Martinez back, but privately concede they do not have the financial wherewithal to do that. The power-deficient San Francisco Giants need a hitter, but Martinez is a better fit for an American League team and the DH slot.
Martinez makes sense for the Red Sox. But it would not make sense for the Red Sox to bid against themselves and Dombrowski has remained patient.
“You do your homework and try and have the best pulse possible,” he said.
While fans may feel frustration because of the lack of action, Dombrowski does not.
“I didn’t really anticipate much different, actually,” he said. “That’s why when everybody kept saying, ‘You’re going to the Winter Meetings, a bunch of things happen.’ I think I said to a couple of people, ‘Well, there’s a long time after the Winter Meetings before the season begins.’
“I just know where we are and some of the things we’re talking about will probably take a while.”
Martinez is sure to get a nine-figure contract. But the reward for waiting could be that such a contract extends over five seasons and not six. That would give the Red Sox payroll space to fill other needs over time.
The Winter Meetings started with the trade of Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and then a flood of agreements for relief pitchers before Ian Kinsler was traded from the Tigers to the Angels. But the market for free agent hitters has been stagnant.
Only Welington Castillo, Chris Iannetta, and Leonys Martin have signed major league deals and that was for a total of $25.2 million. The Red Sox are not alone in waiting for prices to come down.
Dombrowski expects to be busy over the holidays.
“We’re not going to slow down,” he said. “I think it will be very active.”
The Red Sox did take two players in the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Righthanded starter Andy Ferguson was selected out of the Kansas City organization. The Sox also took center fielder Luke Tendler from the Rangers.
Ferguson has thrown only 40 innings the last two seasons because of shoulder issues. But the Sox believe their medical staff can get him back on track. Sox vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum described Ferguson as having a good split-finger fastball.
“Our scouts have liked him for years actually so we’re excited to get him into the organization, Quattlebaum said.
Tendler, 26, is a career .277 hitter with 62 home runs over four seasons.
“He’s a hitter that we’ve liked since his amateur days at [North Carolina] A&T,” Quattlebaum said. “The bat-and-ball data, for our analytic guys, has always stood out . . . We’ve always felt he had some lefthanded bump that could help roll the lineup over.”
Tendler is likely to land at Double A Portland.
The Sox did not lose any players in the major or minor league phases.