Deep Thought: Internet paywall edition

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In the wake of Rob Neyer’s announcement that he’s leaving ESPN yesterday, I’ve encountered a good dozen or more people on Twitter, on various message boards and in comments sections saying something to the effect of “I used to read Neyer all the time, but since he’s been behind a paywall, I haven’t read him in years.”

Which is crazy, because Rob’s time behind ESPN’s Insider paywall was relatively brief and ended years ago. His blog went behind the paywall in 2004.  It was out and free again no later than 2007 and may have been out as earlier.  It’s been free ever since.

There are an increasing number of media outlets looking to put sports content behind paywalls these days. Newsday has done it for a good year or more. The Dallas Morning News will be doing it soon.  That’s their prerogative, of course, and I wish them well. But they should look at the Neyer example and realize that once you go pay, people move on and it’s very, very hard to get them back.

Neyer’s brand was ultimately too strong to kill, but I don’t think that applies to everyone.  There are just too many choices out there.

UPDATE:  Paywalls kill, yo.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.