The Boston Red Sox have some difficult free agency decisions to make, with Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts among those slated to hit the open market next offseason.
J.D. Martinez’s situation is a bit more complicated.
Martinez’s first season with the Red Sox couldn’t have gone any better. He posted huge numbers in 2018, cementing himself as one of the best pure hitters in Major League Baseball, and Boston won its fourth World Series title in 15 years. Expectations remain sky-high as the Red Sox prepare to defend their crown in 2019 with Martinez firmly entrenched in the middle of their lineup.
But just how long will Martinez stick around?
Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million contract with Boston last offseason, but the deal comes with three separate opt-out clauses — after the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. Martinez, who will make $23.75 million in 2019, can earn $23.75 million in 2020 and $19.35 million in 2021 and 2022 if he remains under his current contract with the Red Sox.
That’s no small potatoes, obviously, and there’s been nothing so far to suggest Martinez intends on leaving after this season, after the 2020 season or after the 2021 campaign. In fact, Martinez’s comments Sunday at Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., suggest he’s open to staying put for the long haul.
“I love Boston,” Martinez told reporters at JetBlue Park. “I love the passion and it kind of matches my personality. The fans almost feel like they’re just as passionate as me. Obviously, I’d love to stay here, but that’s really not what I’m worried about right now.”
While that sounds like a man who’s content, the reality is baseball’s a business. Few know this as well as Martinez, whose free agency last offseason dragged on for several months before finally signing with Boston and whose future earnings potential could be impacted, to some extent, by the contracts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually land on the open market this winter.
“At the end of the day, I know my value and I know what I bring to the table,” Martinez said Sunday, downplaying how this offseason’s slow free agent market will affect his opt-out decisions moving forward. “I really don’t look at that. I really judge me on me.”
Martinez’s course of action could depend on several factors, including his 2019 performance. If he replicates his 2018 numbers — .330 average, 43 home runs, 130 RBIs, 1.031 OPS — then it’s possible he’ll envision dollar signs and opt out of his current Red Sox contract in the hopes of securing a more palatable payday with higher, guaranteed salaries.
Jumping back into free agency, however, would represent a significant risk for Martinez. He’ll be 32 years old and still viewed almost exclusively as a designated hitter. His list of potential suitors will grow if the National League adopts the DH, sure, but it’s hard to imagine Martinez’s market being that robust just one year after both Harper and Machado — two 26-year-old superstars in their primes — hung around in free agency far longer than expected due to league-wide trends in roster construction and the financial expenditures necessary (or not necessary) to build a legitimate contender.
Basically, expect Martinez to sit down with his agent, Scott Boras, after this season and evaluate his options. Until then, we’ll just speculate, with the current uncertainty of MLB free agency only increasing the uncertainty surrounding Martinez’s future.