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Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez is not "if but when"

Martinez offers the Red Sox more production than anyone else on the free-agent market

The Winter Meetings came and went, the holiday season is complete and Boston had its first blizzard of 2018. And as was the case before any of those things happened, the Red Sox are still targeting free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez as their big move of the offseason.

That fact is as true now as it was in November.

It is the winter that feels like Groundhog Day to a Red Sox fan. Maybe it would be fitting if Boston at last signs Martinez on Feb. 2.

Of course, nobody would complain if it happened before then.

But Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski's main objective isn't to sign Martinez by a certain date -- it is simply to sign him and have him smack in the middle of new manager Alex Cora's batting order.

"Dave had the best line. He said, 'There is no deadline in the offseason.'"
- Cora

Martinez (45 homers in 432 at-bats last season) offers the Red Sox more production than anyone else on the free-agent market. While trading for Orioles superstar Manny Machado is certainly enticing, it would take a substantial package of players going back to Baltimore to make it a reality. And the fact Machado is eligible for free agency at the end of '18 only complicates matters.

Signing Martinez would be a clear-path move that wouldn't require the Red Sox trading players or prospects. And they wouldn't even lose a compensatory Draft pick as Martinez couldn't receive a qualifying offer because he was traded to Arizona in the middle of the season.

So what is taking so long?

A report surfaced earlier this week that Boston presented Martinez with a five-year offer. No dollar figures were reported. The Red Sox and Martinez's agent, Scott Boras, haven't commented on the report. Both sides would prefer to do their business privately.

Reading between the lines, the stalemate is likely about the length of the contract. Boras typically prefers to get seven or eight years for players Martinez's age (30) and talent level (.690 slugging percentage last season). The Red Sox, meanwhile, are hesitant to go much beyond five years, knowing that hitters can tail off in their mid- to late-30s.

It is unclear if Boston's lack of an opening in the outfield is a turnoff for Martinez. The Red Sox are stacked from left to right with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Martinez would be a designated hitter/outfielder for Boston unless Dombrowski traded one of his outfielders, which doesn't seem likely.

Also prolonging the process is that it is unclear how many other suitors there are for Martinez. The D-backs enjoyed the mammoth production Martinez provided for them down the stretch last season, but they are looking at a club-record $115 million payroll for 2018. For Arizona to have any chance of re-signing Martinez, the club would likely have to trade ace right-hander Zack Greinke, who is set to earn $31 million or more in each of the next four seasons. Even then, the D-backs might prefer to leave themselves with more financial flexibility going forward rather than engaging in another high-priced deal.

The Giants could make some sense, but they recently acquired Evan Longoria and the remainder of his contract, which goes through at least 2022 with the possibility of an additional year via a club option.

It is unclear if there are other suitors who are engaged with Martinez at the moment.

The one thing the Red Sox don't want to do is bid against themselves.

Two of the usual big-market teams who would typically be players for someone like Martinez -- the Dodgers and Yankees -- are both trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

Besides, the Yankees already got Giancarlo Stanton and his monster bat, which is why Martinez would be such a nice answer back by the Red Sox.

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is always adding new chapters. This time, both teams have new managers in Cora and Aaron Boone. How about if they had dueling new sluggers also?

Martinez has been a blossoming if unheralded slugger over the past two seasons.

In Boston, he could become a star on a bigger stage and with the type of thump the Red Sox have lacked since the retirement of David Ortiz.

The teaming up of the Red Sox and Martinez seems to make too much sense for it not to happen.

MLB.com | By Ian Browne

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