The 110 Million Dollar Question: Is Martinez Worth It?
Every year it seems the Red Sox try to make a big “splash” by signing a free agent for some ridiculous amount of money. In a lot of cases they are the ones getting soaked.
In just the last few years we’ve seen David Price (7 years, $217M), Pablo Sandoval (5 years, $95M), Hanley Ramirez (4 years, $88M), Rusney Castillo (7 years, $72M) and Carl Crawford (7 years, $142M) give one of those hokey press conferences about how winning is all that matters to them (the Hummer is just a bonus).
And we’re not even going back to Dice-K and J.D. Drew.
Now its J.D. (there’s that name again) Martinez who has parlayed a somewhat sketchy career into a 5-year, $110 million contract, courtesy of John Henry.
Remember this Sox fans: The best Boston free-agent signing ever was David Ortiz, inked for one year and $1.25 million in 2003 after the Twins cut him. (Of course, they didn’t really know what they had since Ortiz was originally behind the immortal Jeremy Giambi on the depth chart).
Like nearly all of these free-agent signings, this one has a knee-jerk feel to it.
The Yankees got the No. 1 guy in Giancarlo Stanton so now we have to counter that in some way, shape or form. Right? Colleague Matt Langone believes the signing is a response to the current popularity of the Bruins and Celtics. The Sox have already fallen behind the Patriots in popularity polls, the don’t want to sink any further.
But the Red Sox underestimate their fans. Most of them (maybe not the “pink hats” or the talk-radio blowhards) would happily remain patient while watching young players come up from the farm system, become stars in their own right (some of them) and give the team a home-grown feel.
As a fan, that would be preferable to bringing some guy in from Arizona and expecting us to line up for tickets and cheer for him just because he’s wearing the correct laundry.
Besides, Martinez can opt out of his contract after the 2019 season, so if he puts up some good numbers or doesn’t care for the passionate fan base, agent Scott Boras can convince him to leave for greener (literally) pastures.
On another front, this signing could create a problem for the new manager, Alex Cora.
That’s because Martinez is going to primarily be a designated hitter and the Sox already have a $20-million-a-year DH, Hanley Ramirez.
Now, according to the master plan, Hanley is going to platoon at first base with Mitch Moreland, with Ramirez starting against left-handed pitching.
So the guy that wouldn’t play first base for you last year is now going to be a happy camper at the sack? The same guy that needs 497 plate appearances to trigger a $22-million year in 2019, probably his last big pay day? And is not going to come close to 497 under this plan? Forget it. Hanley is going to be big trouble.
(I guess the Martinez signing makes sense if your goal is to keep Hanley from his trigger number, thus saving a lot of dough.)
Martinez also plays the outfield, and according to quotes he made at his introductory press conference, he expects to log some time out there. But unless there’s an injury the Sox don’t need any more outfielders, with Benintendi, Bradley and Betts situated from left to right out, hopefully for years to come. And how many “days off” to players of that age really need.?
One more thing: Martinez has played fewer than 40 games as a DH in his career, and there’s no question that some players just can’t adapt to that role: Hit ... watch video of the at-bat in the clubhouse ... hit ... watch video ... hit ...have some fried chicken and beer (just kidding).
Whether J.D. makes a good DH we’ll have to see. At 30 years old I’m sure he doesn’t see himself being a designated hitter the rest of his career. How boring.
Martinez played 119 games last season between Detroit and Arizona and hit .303 with 45 home runs (four in one game) and 104 RBI. Good numbers, and fortunately for Martinez they came in a contract year. He also struck out 128 times, which of course is more than once a game.
His career has been hot and cold. He was released by the Astros four years ago after splitting time between the minors and majors, and was picked up by Detroit. He showed signs of life with the Tigers and got a one-year deal in 2015 for chump change -- $3 million. He got a two-year extension in 2016 for $18 million. He’s played more than 123 games in a season just once.
Martinez is supposedly a good “clubhouse guy.” That usually lasts for about a week around here. The Sox clubhouse is poisonous. And anyhow that doesn’t matter. What matters in baseball is pitching -- and that’s one thing J.D. Martinez can’t help with.