I want to like the J.D. Martinez signing. I really do.
He hit 45 home runs in 119 games last season. He was third in all of baseball in 2017 with an OPS of 1.066, behind Aaron Judge and Mike Trout. And the Boston Red Sox are in need of some power after hitting just 168 home runs last year, the fourth-lowest home-run total in the majors.
But I can’t get over the fact that Martinez and the Red Sox need each other much more than they may actually want each other. So it seems.
When Martinez’ five-year, $110 million deal was announced earlier this week, the perception was that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had reaped the benefits of staying patient.
Patience is a virtue, in this case, but only because nobody else wanted to pay the 30-year-old slugger.
In early February, Ken Rosenthal reported that Martinez was “fed up” with the Red Sox and their reported $100 million offer. Martinez’ agent, Scott Boras, immediately denied that his client had expressed those feelings.
Now, the two sides have agreed to a contract, and you’ll hear about all the good things Martinez will bring to the Red Sox, as they try to win their third straight division title. What you won’t hear is that Martinez is only coming to Boston because nobody wanted to pay him what a 40-home-run hitter is usually worth.
Martinez’ undeniable power is really all I can tell you about the guy. I honestly don’t know why there wasn’t much of an attempt from the rest of the league to sign him. Perhaps it’s because he’s missed 85 games in the last two years combined. Or maybe it’s because he’s averaged 140 strikeouts per season the last four seasons, including a whopping 178 strikeouts in 2015.
You could say I’m nitpicking here. But given his highly acclaimed home-run power, it’s a little confusing as to why there wasn’t more interest for Martinez on the free-agent market.
Collusion? The Boras effect? Teams saving for next winter’s free-agent bonanza? All of the above?
Who really knows. All I’m saying is, it feels strange.
But because of that lack of interest, Martinez has fallen right into the Red Sox’ lap at the beginning of spring training. The Sox played it right by not bidding against themselves, so they should be praised for their patience, for sure. I’m just curious to know if they would’ve actually got involved in a bidding war at all, had another team been willing to beat the Red Sox’ $110 million offer.
One thing we know about Dombrowski is that, if he wants something, he’s going to go get it. See Chris Sale, David Price, and Craig Kimbrel as just a few examples. If Dombrowski thought offensive power was such a major need for the team, and a 40-home-run hitter that he coveted was a free agent, I find it hard to believe he would’ve waited until everybody arrived at spring training to finalize a deal with him.
Again, don’t bid against yourself. I understand that concept completely. But it’s called a negotiation for a reason. Martinez wanted one thing. The Red Sox offered another. If Dombrowski was all-in on Martinez, why not just get on the phone or get in a room and work something out? By waiting it out, the risk of losing a player you covet is much greater than the reward of being praised for patience.
And hey, it’s always good to get your guy. But whose guy is he? Is he ownership’s guy? Is he Dombrowski’s guy? And if another team offered Martinez a $140 million over five years, would he end up being somebody else’s guy?
Weird to think that the latter is probably true.
That said, I want to like this signing. I honestly do. I just can’t help but think that Martinez is only in Boston because nobody else wanted him.
And that doesn’t get me too fired up.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.