SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Agent Scott Boras, over the course of an hour-long session at the GM Meetings in which he took stock of the financial state of the game, reiterated what he described as the chief factors in the decision of outfielder J.D. Martinez to pass on his right to opt out of his five-year, $110 million contract (with a $23.75 million salary in 2020) and remain with the Red Sox this winter.
Though the agent alluded to his client’s ability to opt out after both the 2020 and 2021 seasons as well, Boras described both the known ability to thrive in Boston and the opportunity to play for a team with clear postseason ambitions as driving factors in the decision of the star hitter.
“J.D. wanted assurance of competition at a high level and the fact that he played so well in Boston, we looked at it and with those two things in mind, we wanted to make sure that was the focus and for that reason he decided to opt in,” said Boras. “The contract we structured allowed him choices after each season so it was something that, in this year at this time, we felt really that was the best decision.”
Because Martinez never opted out of his deal, Boras suggested that he never had the chance to see if his market would be limited to AL suitors who could slot the slugger into a DH role. That said, based on a six-year run in which he has hit .307/.373/.581 while averaging 42 homers per 162 games, even if Martinez is limited to a DH role, Boras believed that the 32-year-old still would encounter a market distinct from the somewhat limited one that often greets designated hitters.
“This is an elite bat and this is very different from what DHs are usually to most teams,” said Boras. “He is a franchise bat, so we always look at him that way.”
Though Boras does not represent Mookie Betts, he nonetheless took stock of the fascinating crossroads that the Red Sox face with the four-time All-Star who is now one year from free agency.
“I think any player who’s really, really good who’s got a couple years to go or one year to go, two years to go, these discussions always come up when they’re not under contract for a long period of time,” said Boras. “I can give you a percentage of that over a decade, how many of those players get traded, and the answer is that it’s very low. You think that much of him, to get something back for him with a limited period of time is always really hard.
“Mookie has a year to go and everybody is talking about Mookie going somewhere. The guy is a franchise player. You’re going, ‘OK, what are we going to do with this decision-making?’ ” he continued. “A lot of this has to do with the fact that the clubs have really leveraged the first four or so years of that player at minimal values. They’ve taken great advantage of it — in these instances, with Mookie and [Kris Bryant], they’ve won world championships with them. And they have to make a determination of the different aspect of that players career, and how they view him. I’ve seen clubs take this decision on. It’s often been a decision that they regret, whether they’ve kept him or whether they’ve traded him. Again, because they’re great players, they’re really key decisions. That’s really all you can say about them.”
While the Red Sox — including principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner — have publicly discussed their goal of shedding payroll and getting under the $208 million luxury tax threshold in 2020, Boras said that he has yet to hear that directly from the team’s owners.
“I have spoken to them and until they tell me that [personally] I would not in any way think anything other than that they’re always winning owners who are trying to win again and again and again,” said Boras. “[But] if your goal is ‘threshold,’ then I believe you have to say that if that is a priority, a principal priority, rather than winning, I think it’s something you say to your fans. I think you need to tell them that our goal is to operate to limits, and in no circumstance does winning get in the way to our primary goal. You know what? I’ve yet to hear an owner say that to his fan base.”