NICK CAFARDO | ON BASEBALL
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Is five years enough to get J.D. Martinez in a Red Sox uniform?
Or is it merely a starting point for negotiations?
We’ll soon find out.
USA Today reported that the Red Sox offered Martinez a five-year deal. Money was not mentioned. Five years is two years short of what agent Scott Boras was seeking, per a report in the fall that said he was seeking a seven-year, $210 million deal for Martinez, who hit 45 homers playing for Detroit and Arizona last season.
The Red Sox have been seeking a power hitter since David Ortiz retired after the 2016 season. Because the Sox wanted to stay under the luxury tax threshold, they were unwilling to sign former Blue Jays 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who wound up signing a three-year, $60 million deal with a fourth-year option for $20 million with Cleveland. That would have been a bargain compared with what the Red Sox might have to pay Martinez.
Whether five years is enough depends strictly on what the market is for Martinez. There are teams who could use sluggers: the Cardinals, Giants, Blue Jays, Phillies, but the Red Sox have been linked to Martinez. It’s where Boras would love to place his client and where it seems to make the most sense.
Martinez would likely DH in Boston unless the Red Sox traded Jackie Bradley Jr. and shifted either Mookie Betts or Andrew Benintendi to center field. Even without a slugger, the Red Sox won 93 games last season, same as 2016, when they had Ortiz. The Red Sox had better pitching in 2017, and if they had David Price for a full season, they might have won more.
But in a year in which home runs were hit in abundance and in which the World Series champion Houston Astros were second in baseball in homers (behind the Yankees), the Red Sox ranked 27th. The Sox still believe some of their players are capable of hitting more home runs.
But can the Red Sox depend on this internal upswing without outside help?
The Red Sox passed on first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has received a seven-year offer from the San Diego Padres. The other major home run hitter left is third baseman Manny Machado. The Orioles would trade Machado to the Red Sox for the right package of players, and then the Red Sox would have to offer Machado a major contract — likely 10 years at more than $30 million per year. Machado can be a free agent after the 2018 season.
If the Red Sox can’t land Martinez it would be a major blow to their offense in 2018. They would have to settle for lesser talent, such as Logan Morrison (38 homers for the Rays last season) or Jay Bruce (36 for the Mets and Indians). Ortiz has twice recommended Nelson Cruz, who at the time went to Baltimore, and Encarnacion. The Red Sox did not heed Ortiz’s advice. Both players would have cost them far less than Martinez.
Nobody knows Martinez better than Dave Dombrowski, who signed Martinez off the Houston Astros scrap heap at the urging of his top assistant at the time, Al Avila, Dombrowski’s successor in Detroit. Avila knew Martinez since he was a boy because he had played with Avila’s son Alex, in amateur baseball.
Martinez has drawn rave reviews from the Diamondbacks staff in his incredible half-season there. Hitting coach Dave Magadan said he was one of the most dedicated players he’d ever been around, a true student of hitting. General manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo also raved about Martinez’s defense, which has been questioned.
It would appear the Red Sox have to get to a sixth-year option for the 30-year-old outfielder, who also would have to agree on being a DH most of the time.
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