At the conclusion of the season, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy acknowledged that the team has a goal to get its payroll under the luxury-tax threshold of $208 million for the 2020 season, making it “difficult” to retain both J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, though he did note that there was a way to move forward with both stars.
On Monday, Martinez decided not to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract, a deal that will count for $23.75 million against the luxury-tax threshold in 2020. Given that both Martinez and Betts now remain under team control for next year, has anything changed since Kennedy first discussed the difficulty of retaining both?
“No,” Kennedy said by phone. “Nothing has changed.”
Kennedy and other Red Sox officials have also noted that having Martinez back represents a strength for the team.
The 32-year-old hit .304/.383/.557 with 36 homers and drove in 105 runs in 2019, and in two seasons in Boston, he has hit .317/.392/.593 with 79 homers. In that time, he ranks in the top five in the majors in homers, average, and slugging, and in the top 10 in on-base percentage.
The Sox view him as an asset in a lineup that led the way to a championship in 2018 and remained elite in 2019. Kennedy also made clear that the Red Sox will keep an open mind about payroll for the 2020 season.
As he said the day after the season and has since repeated, the effort to get under the tax threshold is a desire but not an absolute commitment, a stance that theoretically gives the team the latitude to enter the year with both Betts (expected to be in the range of $28 million-$30 million) and Martinez.
“We’ve communicated with J.D. that we’re ecstatic that he’s decided to stay here with the Red Sox,” Kennedy said. “We talked about the desire, the goal of working towards [getting under the tax], but it’s certainly not a hard-and-fast mandate.
“[New chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom] and the team will continue to think through different strategies for the near term and the long term. It’s good to have that [opt-out] issue behind us, and now we move on.”