The Red Sox certainly got their money’s worth with J.D. Martinez.
It became clear throughout 2017 — the season after David Ortiz retired — that Boston needed a middle-of-the-order bopper, and Martinez filled that role admirably upon signing with the Red Sox during spring training in 2018. He earned four All-Star selections in five years as the club’s designated hitter — the lone exception being the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign — and was an offensive driving force in the Red Sox’s fourth World Series title since 2004.
Martinez had the ability to opt out of his five-year, $110 million contract on three separate occasions — after 2019, after 2020 and after 2021 — yet he stuck around for the duration of the deal, with the relationship ultimately proving fruitful for both sides. The Red Sox even opted not to trade Martinez before the 2022 Major League Baseball trade deadline despite questions over whether they could turn around their season down the stretch.
Now, Martinez is set to become a free agent, which could spell the end of his time in Boston. His departure obviously would leave the Red Sox with a void at DH, though, and as such, it’s worth exploring whether they might consider bringing Martinez back for a sixth season in Boston.
Let’s examine the case for (and against) the Red Sox re-signing Martinez in free agency.
139 games (596 plate appearances)
16 home runs, 62 RBIs
117 OPS+, 119 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR
The case for re-signing Martinez
While Martinez is coming off a down season, relative to his usual high standards, he’s still capable of adding some oomph to Boston’s lineup, likely at a reasonable rate given the typical earning power of most full-time designated hitters. The Red Sox might prefer to rotate players through the DH spot moving forward, a philosophy shift that would give Boston additional roster flexibility, but Martinez’s potential impact is obvious, even at age 35. He’s arguably the top full-time DH available in free agency this offseason, and the Red Sox could value the continuity he’d provide, especially with Xander Bogaerts’ future hanging in the balance as the shortstop prepares to possibly opt out of his contract and test the open market.
Martinez’s presence goes beyond the box score, as well, as his work ethic and dedication to mastering his craft had a positive influence on some of the organization’s younger players in recent years, thereby enhancing Boston’s collective offense. His film work and overall tutelage, while very much intangible, could be missed if Martinez signs elsewhere.
The case against re-signing Martinez
Martinez showed signs of regression in 2022, finishing with his lowest home run total and OPS since 2013 (wacky 2020 aside). He started strong, resulting in his fifth career trip to the Midsummer Classic, but he went through a serious lull in the middle of the year that inherently raises questions about his future performance. After all, he’ll turn 36 next August, and his exit velocities and hard-hit rates no longer sit among baseball’s elite. The Red Sox might simply decide to reallocate their resources elsewhere, acknowledging the highly successful tenure has run its course.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote over the weekend the Red Sox are not planning to extend a (one-year, $19.65 million) qualifying offer to Martinez. This doesn’t close the door on a reunion, but it perhaps offers a glimpse into Boston’s thinking as far as the DH spot is concerned for 2023. In theory, the Red Sox could cycle through Triston Casas, Eric Hosmer and Bobby Dalbec, among other replacements (internal and/or external).