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The Curious Case of JD Martinez

It’s been a little less than a month since we last touched on JD Martinez on this site. Guess you could say we were due, huh? Pitchers and catchers report next week (literally 7 days from today), which means that we’ve sat through an entire off season and watched the Boston Red Sox do, well, nothing.

We’re all in agreement that the Red Sox are in major need of an impact power bat, right? Okay good, that’s what I thought. So why is it so hard for all of us to agree that signing JD Martinez is a good move for this team? And more importantly why is it so hard for Dave Dombrowski to realize that?

This stalemate between Martinez and the Red Sox has gone on for far too long, and it’s time for someone to blink. Martinez doesn’t have to give in, there are 29 other teams that can sign him, and his services will eventually be needed by someone. For the Red Sox, there are no other players that immediately help them on the market.

Eric Hosmer never would have fit here, he’s never generated a season with a WAR higher than 4.0 (coincidentally in a contract year). Hosmer is a classic mid-market player that would have fizzled out under the bright lights. He’s best in Kansas City. Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are good pitchers, but the Red Sox have a lot of salary tied up in their rotation already. They aren’t necessary in Boston at the moment.

Eric Hosmer

A big part of me wonders if JD Martinez even wants to be a member of the Boston Red Sox. Maybe he goes wherever the money is best, maybe he goes where he fits the best. Martinez could be unwilling to DH full time, as he would most likely have to do in Boston. Who knows what he wants. The best fit for Martinez has always been Arizona, but the DBacks have salary hell on their hands, with Zack Greinke making $35 million a year and Yasmany Tomas making $18 million for some unknown reason. Paul Goldschmidt is a free agent at the end of the year, and he’s been the best player in Diamondbacks franchise history. I’m sure Martinez and the DBacks would love to work it out, but it just doesn’t seem feasible. So can we just get the guy to Boston already?

The most common complaints that I’ve heard regarding Martinez are that he’s injury prone and that he’s too old to warrant a long term deal. To me, neither of those arguments hold much merit. It’s true that Martinez has only played one full season in the majors (2015 with the Tigers), but in that season he hit 38 homeruns, drove in 102 and slashed .282/.344/.535.

Even in the years where Martinez hasn’t played a full season, his offensive output has been equal to or better than what Mookie Betts produced last year, and Betts was the Red Sox best offensive player. Not to mention, Martinez hit 45 bombs in just 119 games last year. Seems like a pretty significant upgrade to me.

As for Martinez being too old for a long term deal, he’s only 30 and won’t be 31 until the end of August. For perspective, there are only 4 significant hitters that will be free agents next winter that will be younger than Martinez is right now.

Let’s face facts, two of those four, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, won’t be coming to Boston. The other two players are Marwin Gonzalez and DJ LeMahieu, who probably don’t represent significant upgrades in terms of power production.

If you’re still concerned about signing JD Martinez, let me remind you that the Red Sox finished DEAD LAST in the American League in homeruns hit last year. The Red Sox play 108 games a year in hitter friendly parks (81 at Fenway, 9 each in Toronto, New York and Baltimore), and they hit a pathetic 168 home runs.

Here’s a fun fact for you: Mookie Betts like the Red Sox with 24 home runs last year. But you probably already knew that. Here’s what you didn’t know: every other team in the American League, with the exception of the Tigers, had a 30 home run hitter. Interestingly enough, the Tigers would have had a 30 homer guy if they hadn’t traded Justin Upton, who hit 28 in 125 games before being dealt to the Angels.

I understand that power isn’t everything, as the Red Sox still finished 6th in the American League with 735 runs scored. But think back on that season, and remember how frustrated you were with this offense. Did a feel like a top half of the league offense? Not even a little bit.

Sure, you could argue that many of the Red Sox players will bounce back in 2018. They were so good in 2016 that they must’ve just had a down year in 2017 right? Well maybe, just maybe, they all had career years in 2016 and 2017 was a return to the norm. That seems more likely at this point. Xander Bogaerts isn’t nearly as good as we had all hoped he’d become and Jackie Bradley’s entire offensive production is based on about 3.5 months of baseball (August 2015 – mid May 2016).

And then there’s Betts, who had an MVP caliber year in 2016, then publically admitted that may be the best year of his career. Betts is still an elite player, but a lot of his value comes from his supernatural defense. He’ll still turn around a fastball if a pitcher is dumb enough to through him one, but he’ll also continue to consistently get himself out if he gets a routine diet of breaking balls, due to his utter refusal to hit the ball the other way.

Look, the 2016 Red Sox were so good because all of the pressure was off the young guys, as David Ortiz produced the best offensive year in baseball. This core group is still young, but they need an Ortiz like hitter in the middle of this lineup. Is JD Martinez the same caliber of hitter as David Ortiz? Of course not, but he’s a hell of a lot closer than anyone on this current Red Sox roster.

JD-Martinez

But this isn’t 2016 anymore, and this isn’t that special 2016 group. Last year, the Red Sox lucked into winning the AL East. The Yankees were the better team, and that was evidenced by the playoff performances that both teams turned in. The Yankees should have been dead after being down 0-2 to Cleveland, but they rallied and came back. There’s something special brewing in the Bronx.

There’s probably a pretty strong argument to be made that the 2017 Yankees are similar to the 2016 Red Sox. You can legitimately argue that all of the Yankees had career years at the same time in 2017. The Yankees may have been fearful of that, so you know what they did this off season? They went out and got Giancarlo Stanton. They made a move to get better.

Remember this gem? So what’s the deal here Dave? Are you going to sit idly back and watch those “Golden State Warriors” form right before your eyes, or are you going to make a splash and improve your team? After whiffing on Edwin Encarnacion last winter, it seems like Dombrowski is content with this offense and presently constructed. My gut feeling is he won’t bring in JD Martinez. God do I hope I’m wrong.

Written by: Brian Borders (@bborders12)

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