J.D. Martinez decided back in November not to opt out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox.
It was an understandable decision, with a possible lockout looming, but the new collective bargaining agreement ratified last week calls for a universal designated hitter beginning in 2022. Had Martinez opted out and become a free agent, his market, in theory, would have doubled, with National League clubs now joining their American League counterparts in deploying a DH.
Still, even with the benefit of hindsight, Martinez has no regrets about sticking with the Red Sox.
“I think I made the right decision, personally, and I’m excited to be here,” Martinez told reporters Monday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. “I think this team has a chance to win again, and that’s what I want to do: I want to win. I’m starting to go towards later on in my career and trying to win is the most fun.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee Martinez would have landed a lucrative payday in free agency at age 34, as some teams across the league — including those in the NL — will rotate several players through their DH spot rather than rely on one big-name slugger.
That said, Martinez silenced many of the concerns that surrounded him after an awful 54-game stretch during MLB’s pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He slashed .286/.349/.518 with 28 home runs and 99 RBIs in 2021, earning his fourth career All-Star selection and reestablishing himself as a middle-of-the-order threat.
“I think it just kind of aligned, both,” Martinez said of playing out the final year of his Red Sox contract. “The situation here, the uncertainty of what was going on out there. I felt like it was an easy decision.”
The five-year, $110 million contract Martinez signed with Boston before the 2018 season included opt-outs after 2019, 2020 and 2021. Yet, despite a mostly successful run with the Red Sox, he decided each offseason against testing the open market. Martinez is slated to earn $19.35 million in 2022.
“I’ve loved it here the whole time,” Martinez said. “I’ve expressed my feelings toward the front office. I’ve told them. I’ve told (chief baseball officer) Chaim (Bloom). I’ve told (manager) Alex (Cora). I love the group here. I love the personnel, everyone, the coaching staff. I get along great with everybody. I think it’s a first-class organization. I’ve been a part of some pretty good organizations — with Detroit, Arizona — but this takes the cake. It’s the Red Sox. It’s fun to be here.”
So, will 2022 mark Martinez’s final year in a Red Sox uniform? Only time will tell.
But Martinez, who has embraced the demands of playing in Boston, is open to extending the relationship, even if he’s not necessarily focused on signing a contract extension while preparing for the season.
“I would love it,” Martinez said. “Like I said, I’ve expressed where I stand with the team. I would love to finish my career here. But that’s not up to me, really.”