Red Sox’s J.D. Martinez Could Be Big Winner With MLB’s Universal DH Rule

Wednesday was a good day for J.D. Martinez.

While no one can know for sure just how close Major League Baseball is to having a 2020 season, it sounds as if significant progress was made toward finding an agreement between the players and owners. If that’s the case, of course, Martinez and the rest of the league’s players will have a chance to at least make some of their money for the 2020 campaign.

So, that’s good. What’s potentially even better for Martinez is one of the reported agreements between the two sides. According to multiple reports, as part of the agreement, both the American and National League will have the designated hitter not only in 2020 but the 2021 season, too.

Assuming the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t stop the 2020 (and/or 2021) season from happening, Martinez’s performance is going to be really interesting to monitor. And if he has a great 2020 season — and there’s no reason to believe he won’t — he’ll have a decision to make at season’s end.

Martinez reportedly has an opt-out in his contract following this season. He also had one following the 2019 campaign and somewhat surprisingly decided to opt in after hitting .304 with 36 home runs and 105 RBIs for the Red Sox. Sure, at the time, doing so meant he’d make $23.75 million for 2020, but it wouldn’t have been shocking to see him test the market after yet another productive season.

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One of the problems Martinez would have faced on the market, though, is he’d likely be viewed primarily as a designated hitter. And if that was the case, he’d have a limited market of just American League teams.

But things will be different following the 2020 season. Universal DH will double his market, and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to know that’s a good thing. He might be tempted to opt-out, too, considering the first three years of a potential five-year contract with the Red Sox were the most lucrative. He’s set to “only” make $19.35 million per season over the final two years.

The prospect of a short season naturally will skew overall numbers, but it would be no surprise to see Martinez among the sport’s top power producers after, say, a 65-game season. This is the same player who hit 24 home runs in 53 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks down the stretch in 2017.

There are risks and uncertainty to this course of action, though. Again, there’s no guarantee of baseball in 2020. If the pandemic lingers and a vaccine truly is at least another year away, how might that also affect the prospects of a 2021 season? Martinez by all accounts likes Boston and playing for the Red Sox. He has $40 million (or some prorated portion of it) still left on the table, and no one could blame him for taking the “safe” route and staying put.

Not only that, but it’s also impossible to say how teams will allocate funds moving forward. We could be looking at baseball in front of less-than-full stadiums for two seasons. Are teams going to rush out and spend their money on a 33-year-old DH, even if the position is universally adapted on a full-time basis? It’s hard to say. The DH market has been sluggish in recent years as it was, but maybe doubling the market would lead to more activity.

But it looks like Martinez will have options, which is always a good thing for a player. Now, he and everyone else just need to get back on the field.

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Thumbnail photo via Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports Images