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J.D. Martinez won’t opt out of contract with Red Sox

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ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez won’t opt out of his contract with the Red Sox. Martinez has three years and $62.5 million remaining, and can choose to opt out again after the 2020 season.

Martinez, 32, had another terrific offensive season, batting .304/.383/.557 with 36 home runs and 105 RBI in 657 plate appearances. It says something about how good he had been in 2017 and ’18, though, that his performance this past season felt like a down year.

One wonders if the Red Sox front office is stewing a bit about Martinez choosing to come back. The club is very publicly trying to shrink its payroll, so much so that it is reportedly willing to trade Mookie Betts. On September 30, president and CEO Sam Kennedy said “it will be difficult” to keep both Betts and Martinez. With Martinez back in the fold, it seems right to conclude that the Red Sox are even more likely to deal Martinez or Betts.

Martinez likely chose to stay with the Red Sox because there was a chance he wouldn’t have been able to do better than 3/$62.5 million. He’s obviously a tremendous hitter, but he’s a DH. A National League team can’t hide him, which eliminates half of the competition and thus reduces Martinez’s leverage. Martinez was worth 6.8 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is excellent, but teams value financial flexibility and positional versatility a lot these days. Furthermore, the free agent market has been rather dull in recent years, creating a negative feedback loop for free agents or would-be free agents.

At any rate, we will likely be having a similar conversation about Martinez at this time next year, provided the Red Sox don’t trade him either during this offseason or in the run up to the July 31 trade deadline.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).