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Let’s Pump The Brakes On The J.D. Martinez Excitement

Rejoice!

The Red Sox finally got their guy!

Start getting those duckboats ready!

Pop the gold bottles!

Those are the reactions that Red Sox fans are making after their team finally inked free agent slugger J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million deal on Monday afternoon.  For once this offseason, there is a buzz around the Red Sox, and people are actually looking forward to Opening Day and Spring Training now.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I guess I’m supposed to be on that same fanatical hit that the rest of Red Sox Nation is currently on after this move.

My actual feelings on this… meh.

Unlike the owners of the Red Sox, who clearly lied through their teeth hours before the ink dried on J.D.’s deal, I was actually fine with the way the roster was constructed before Monday’s signing.  I understand the misconception that the Red Sox desperately needed a power bat in their order, but in reality, there are a majority of players that could have filled that void by just having better seasons.

Mookie Betts regressed last season, Andrew Benintendi hit the rookie/sophomore wall, Rafael Devers struggled mightily at times, Dustin Pedroia wasn’t healthy for most of the year, Xander Bogaerts just plain stunk for a large portion of the year, and Hanley Ramirez didn’t seem like he cared a whole lot.

Do we really think that all of those things are going to happen yet again this year?

If the Red Sox get even five more homers from each of those players this season, then that’s a significant bump in power with the exact same lineup.  Tell me who on that list isn’t capable of having a big bounceback year?  Hanley is obviously the prime choice, but he has 22 million reasons to not only play every day at first base or DH but produce, because there’s no way he’s going to earn even close to that on the open market if he doesn’t garner the at-bats needed to kick in his option for 2019.

How silly of me to have confidence in the actual roster of a team that made the playoffs two straight seasons.

I feel like Sox fans are obsessed over what the Yankees did in the offseason, and just wanted the Sox to counter it by adding their own big bat regardless of whether it fit on the team or not.  I mean, we were already paying a guy $22 million to just hit and not play the field, so why not just pay another guy $22 million a year to replace him at DH?  Makes sense right?

If the Sox wanted to make a huge splash, it should have been at first base, where they actually had a glaring hole.  They could have gone after Eric Hosmer (who just got grossly overpaid by the Padres), Carlos Santana (who didn’t get overpaid by the Phillies), Logan Morrison (who’s still available for the taking), or Yonder Alonso (who the Tribe got a steal on) instead of rushing to re-sign Mitch Moreland.  Hell, the Sox could have had any of those players AND Martinez this offseason if they really wanted to go that route.  Signing both would have likely required them to move an outfielder, but maybe they could have swung JBJ for a starting pitcher or some top prospects that their farm system desperately needs.  Or they could have just signed a 1B and kept Hanley at DH.  They would have bumped up their power numbers while filling a void and saving a little coin at the same time.

I get that the money isn’t mine and it shouldn’t be an issue, but no one is talking about the $110 million the Red Sox just spent.  Granted, there’s an option to bounce Martinez out of Boston after the 2019 season, which would cost them just $50 million instead of the $110 million, but I wonder if there are better options that could have been filled with that cash.

Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz are free agents after this coming season.  Mookie Betts NEEDS to be locked up immediately, especially after a trip to arbitration this winter that was a bad sign of things to come in negotiations.  The MLB free agent group in 2019 is absolutely stacked, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as the two massive names heading the list.  Decisions need to be made on younger veterans like Bogaerts and Bradley, as they are under team control but could be priced out of Boston with solid campaigns.

People are saying that the Sox got a bargain on Martinez, because the rumored original offer was 5/125 and foolishly his agent Scott Boras was looking for a $200 million contract when the offseason began.  But I wonder how low the Sox could have gone to ink J.D., especially since there was seemingly no one else in the running for his services during this painfully slow offseason.  The Diamondbacks were reportedly interested, but they weren’t offering nearly the length or amount of contract that Boston was, so I highly doubt that Martinez would have returned there regardless of how much he loved playing in Arizona.  I mean, 5/110 is better than 5/125, but I wonder if they could have gone even lower and saved some coin for the future.  Or structured it differently to make it even cheaper after the option in 2020.  You never know if they’ll need a few extra million to stay under a luxury tax or to spend on someone in the near future.

Granted, if Martinez excels in Boston then no one will care about the money or if it will hamstring the future.  But let’s not jump to conclusions thinking that Martinez is just going to mash the ball for the Sox.

Martinez picked a great time to have his best numerical season, as he belted 45 homers and drove in 104 runs in Detroit and Arizona last year.  He put up those gaudy numbers in just 119 games, which looks even more impressive but represents an issue with the 30-year-old: durability.

Martinez has played over 123 games just once in his seven MLB seasons, and has missed 128 games total in his last four seasons.  The transition from everyday outfielder to mostly occupying the DH slot in Boston (for now at least) should help with his health, but Sox fans have to expect a DL stint or two coming from their new acquisition.

His power numbers are impressive – in every other season that he’s played.  In 2014, he hit 23 homers and had 76 RBIs in 123 games with Detroit after the Astros cut him prior to Opening Day.  He followed that with an All-Star season, with 38 HRs and 102 RBIs in 158 games played.  He regressed to 22 HR and just 68 RBIs in 2016 before the rebound last year.

He’s really a 25-30 HR hitter who bats around .300 and strikes out over once a game and misses 30-40 games a year.  Which is why I’m more meh about this signing than overjoyed.

Maybe I’ll be totally wrong about J.D. Martinez in Boston.  Maybe he’ll launch balls over the Monster on a regular basis, stay healthy, and lead this team back to the playoffs and beyond.  But let’s all see the product before we start proclaiming that the Boston Red Sox are worthy of our excitement.

Keep those gold bottles stocked for now.

Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)

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