Sorry, J.D. It’s not you. It’s us.
That would be my message to J.D. Martinez, if I was calling the shots for the Boston Red Sox this offseason. It would serve as the explanation for why he’s being shopped in a potential trade this winter.
For the record, I have no idea if Martinez is actually being shopped, or if the Red Sox would ever even consider trading him. But what I do know is that Martinez has decided not to opt out of his current deal. Instead, he plans on returning to Boston to play out the third year of his five-year, $110 million contract, in which he’s owed $23.8 million in 2020.
Martinez, 32, had until this past Monday night to decide whether or not to opt out and become a free agent. In a decision that came down to the wire — publicly, at least — the Red Sox’ DH chose to stick around.
It’s good news, and it’s bad news. The good news is, if the 2020 season began today, then the Red Sox are retaining a guy who has a total of 79 home runs and 235 RBI over the last two seasons. The bad news? It just got a lot harder to make Mookie Betts a significant contract offer this winter.
Betts, 27, still has one more year left on his deal with the Red Sox, in the form of arbitration eligibility. If he wants, he can become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. You would think that the Red Sox would want to make the attempt, right now, to prevent him from hitting that free-agent market, where he’ll undoubtedly be asking for a contract worth somewhere between Bryce Harper’s $330 million deal and Mike Trout’s $430 million deal. Who knows, Betts might even strive to make more than Trout. I’m just not so sure he’d be able to get it
Regardless, you know how these things work. Players don’t want to talk contract during the season, especially during their season of impending free agency. So, if you’re the Red Sox, you need to have that ever-so-serious conversation with Betts right now. If there’s a reasonable number that each side can work around, and you’re confident that the framework of a blockbuster contract extension with Betts is in place, then the next move should be an easy one: trade Martinez.
The Red Sox have gone on the record with their desire to get underneath the $208 million luxury tax threshold this offseason. In order to get Betts’ attention with a significant offer, they’ll have to shed salary somewhere.
A major factor to consider with Martinez is that he also has the ability to opt out of his Red Sox contract next offseason. And it should be noted that in each of the final two years of his deal, his salary will go down to $19.4 million. So it’s quite possible that Martinez will choose to opt out next winter, rather than take a $4 million pay cut. Imagine losing both Martinez and Betts to free agency in the same offseason?
According to reports, as part of the “limited” no-trade clause in Martinez’ contract, he has until the end of November to give the Red Sox a list of three teams that he cannot be traded to. Still, something tells me there’d be more than three American League teams interested in acquiring Martinez. Who knows, maybe a National League team wants to get nuts and stick him in right field.
What would be a better business decision: giving a significant pay raise to a 33-year-old DH next winter, or giving a significant pay raise to a 27-year-old Gold Glove right fielder this winter? I’ll choose the latter.
And the Red Sox should too.
Hope you understand, J.D.
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