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.