FORT MYERS, Fla. – Is J.D. Martinez a better player than Yoenis Cespedes?
That seems to be the comparison being used in negotiations regarding Martinez between the Red Sox and Scott Boras, according to a major league source.
Cespedes, who is two years older at 32, received a four-year, $110 million deal from the Mets last year. He received a salary of $22.5 million last season and will earn $29 million over the next two seasons and $29.5 million in 2020. He has the second-highest annual salary for a positional player, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, behind Miguel Cabrera’s $29.2 million.
Cespedes may be considered a better outfielder, although his time in Boston didn’t bear that out, as his unwillingness to work on his fielding (especially with the wall in left field) or play right field were major strikes against him.
According to baseball-reference.com, his 162-game averages over his six-year career are .274 with 32 homers, 102 RBIs, and an .826 OPS. Martinez’s seven-year averages are .285, 32 homers, 100 RBIs, and an OPS of .857.
So where should Martinez fall salary-wise?
If the reports of a five-year offer at $125 million are accurate, it would appear the Red Sox and Boras aren’t far apart. A sixth year could be a compromise, and an average annual value slightly better than the $27.5 million Cespedes got might do the trick.
In this slow market, the Red Sox may feel they don’t want to compete against themselves. There’s no evidence of other offers for Martinez, though they may be out there. If they are, they’ve been kept quiet by other teams and Boras.
Defensively, Cespedes led the league in assists in 2014 with 16. Martinez had 15 assists in 2015, which was second best in the league, and he also led the American League in fielding percentage (.993) for right fielders that season.
Martinez’s fielding has been maligned, but Diamondbacks personnel have indicated that Martinez was a very good defender for them. Of course, Martinez would be mostly a DH in Boston, but could see some outfield time against tough lefthanders if Alex Cora gives Andrew Benintendi a day off.
There’s no doubt that Dave Dombrowski wants Martinez to add a power dimension to the Boston lineup and wants to be fair in his offer. Martinez is the premier power hitter on the market; he hit .346 against velocity 95 miles per hour or more last season.
We’ll see how long this stalemate continues.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.