As is often the case with World Series winners, last year was an “everything went right” year for the Boston Red Sox. Their best players were at their best, their role players stepped up in a big way, their trade deadline additions were exactly what the doctor ordered, and they stayed mostly healthy. It was an all-around great year for the BoSox.
Free agent pickup J.D. Martinez had an MVP caliber 2018 season, hitting .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs while leading MLB with 130 RBI and 358 total bases. That earned him a fourth-place finish in the American League MVP voting, and his 6.4 WAR was truly outstanding for a player who spent more games at DH (93) than in the field (57).
This year Martinez has been very good but not truly dominant, and I suppose that’s one reason the Red Sox are fading out of the postseason race. Going into Wednesday’s game, Martinez had lost 30 points off his batting average, 25 points off his on-base percentage, and 88 points off his slugging percentage. Going from a .629 slugging to a .541 slugging with the juiced ball? Eek.
The Red Sox signed Martinez to a five-year contract worth $110 million prior to last season and the contract includes a series of opt-out clauses that begin to come into play this winter. Here is Martinez’s contract structure:
- 2018: $23.75 million
- 2019: $23.75 million
- 2020: $23.75 million (or $2.5 million buyout if Martinez opts out following 2019)
- 2021: $19.375 million (or no buyout if Martinez opts out following 2020)
- 2022: $19.375 million
Should he opt out following this season, Martinez would walk away from three years and $62.5 million. Given the buyout, it is effectively a $60 million decision. Here’s what Martinez told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford about the opt-out decision last month:
“For me, I just listen to him. That’s what I pay him for,” Martinez said, referencing his agent Scott Boras. “He gives me his opinion, he gives me his advice and it’s up to me after that to make my decision. We’re really not there yet, where he’s given me his opinion and his advice. So I think we have to see how it plays out.”
This is very straightforward decision for Martinez and Boras. Do they believe they can beat $60 million on the open market? If yes, then he should opt out, or at least leverage the opt-out clause into an extension with the Red Sox. If not, then he should stick with his current contract and take the guaranteed $60 million.
Keep in mind free agency is very player-unfriendly right now. It has been for two years. Martinez hit 45 home runs in 119 games in 2017 and still had to wait until late February 2018 to sign as a free agent. He’s is a soon-to-be 32-year-old most-of-the-time DH with an injury history, and his numbers, while still good, have gone south.
- 2018: 93.0 mph average exit velocity and 52.4 percent hard-hit rate
- 2019: 92.0 mph average exit velocity and 46.3 percent hard-hit rate
Barring a monster late-season surge — a surge Martinez is absolutely capable of putting together — the expectation here is that Martinez will not opt out of his contract this winter. Even with Boras as his agent. It’s tough to see a DH on the wrong side of 30 landing more than $60 million guaranteed in this market, even a DH as good as Martinez.
Because of that, Martinez drops out of our 2019-20 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings this month. I ranked him among the top free agents in previous months largely because of his track record, and because I expected his stats to approach his 2018 output in time. It hasn’t happened. Now that we’re in August, I think it’s time to assume Martinez will not opt into free agency.
As a reminder, 11 would-be free agents signed extensions earlier this year that took them off the market. Some pretty big names too. Here are those 11 players, listed in order of contract guarantee:
- 3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 8 years, $260 million.
- LHP Chris Sale, Red Sox: 5 years, $145 million.
- 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals: 5 years, $130 million.
- SS Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: 6 years, $120 million plus one option.
- OF Aaron Hicks, Yankees: 7 years, $70 million plus one option.
- RHP Miles Mikolas, Cardinals: 4 years, $68 million.
- RHP Justin Verlander, Astros: 2 years, $66 million.
- 3B Matt Carpenter, Cardinals: 3 years, $39 million.
- DH Khris Davis, Athletics: 2 years, $33.75 million.
- RHP Sonny Gray, Reds: 3 years, $30.5 million plus one option.
- RHP Ryan Pressly, Astros: 2 years, $17.5 million plus one option.
. Now that the trade deadline is over,it’s time to get back on the horse. Here are our latest MLB Free Agent Power Rankings for the upcoming offseason.
Contract Options: For the purposes of these rankings we are assuming Chris Archer, Pirates ($9 million); Nelson Cruz, Twins ($12 million); Sean Doolittle, Nationals ($6.5 million); Corey Kluber, Indians ($17.5 million); Starling Marte, Pirates ($11.5 million); Jose Quintana, Cubs ($11.5 million); and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs ($14.5 million) will have their club options exercised. Also, in addition to Martinez, we are assuming Elvis Andrus, Rangers (three years, $43 million); Jake Arrieta, Phillies (one year, $20 million); Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (two years, $30 million); Yu Darvish, Cubs (four years, $81 million); Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (two years, $38 million); and Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (four years, $100 million) will not opt out of their contracts.