Red Sox In Depth: What the JD Martinez Signing Means

In case you haven’t heard, the Boston Red Sox completed their offseason long pursuit of JD Martinez. In short, here’s what Martinez provides the Red Sox:

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Adding Martinez was clearly the right move for a team that was so deprived of power last year. We’ve been over this before, but for a big market team like the Red Sox to finish dead last in the American League in home runs is shameful and unacceptable. I’m a very pro Martinez writer, and I’m happy to have him on board. But what’s the trickle down effect of signing Martinez? Lets take a look, starting with the obvious:

Where does Martinez play? I think the logical conclusion here is that Martinez will serve as the everyday DH, which is a perfect role for someone that has had injury troubles in the past. I’m sure we’ll see Martinez in the outfield a few times during the year when a lefty is starting, just to give Andrew Benintendi or Jackie Bradley a breather. We have to assume that JD is okay with DHing on an everyday basis, because he signed the contract. If it had been an absolute deal breaker for him, he more than likely would have taken the one year deal in Arizona, proved his worth again, and become another monster bat in the winter of 2018-19.

What happens to Hanley Ramirez? This to me is the most glaring question that has come from the signing of JD Martinez. Hanley was slotted in to be the everyday DH before yesterday afternoon, and now he’s left in a state of limbo. My best guess is that Ramirez plays mostly against left handed pitching, whether it be at first base or as the DH if Martinez is in the outfield. The Red Sox could always go super right-handed heavy against a lefty pitcher, featuring a lineup that includes JD Martinez, Hanley Ramirez and Sam Travis, although that seems unlikely.

The real question here is if Hanley will be happy with this role. I would ultimately guess no, due to a very specific clause in his contract.

As you can see, if Hanley racks up 1,050 plate appearances between last year and this year, he’ll be seeing an additional $25 million added to his contract. Ramirez had 553 plate appearances last year, so he needs just 497 this year. A very attainable goal for an everyday player. But Hanley doesn’t produce like an everyday player anymore. He’s much better suited for his role as a right-handed thumper against lefty pitching. That clause makes him tough to trade, because if he’s being dealt it would be to a team that needs him to play everyday. But would that new team really want to be on the hook for an additional $25 million if he records the 497 plate appearances?

What about Mitch Moreland? To me Moreland is safe. Regardless of how he hits, his defense will keep him in the lineup over the likes of Hanley and Sam Travis. Plus, maybe it’s not all bad for Moreland.

Moreland is a good player that the Red Sox signed for 2 years and $13 million. That’s a bargain. Eric Hosmer is also a good player, but he got 8 years and $144 million. To pretend they’re vastly different players is laughable. Moreland hits the ball harder and in the air. Hosmer has a higher batting average, but hits 52% of his balls on the ground. There is much more room for improvement from Moreland. I think we see it this year.

Trade Jackie Bradley? The short answer here is no. I’m sure the Red Sox could get a nice piece for their starting rotation by including Bradley in any deal, but that simply isn’t the right move. Bradley is famously streaky as a hitter, but you can’t deny his defensive impact. In terms of runs saved over the past two years: Andrew Benintendi +8 (-1,9), JBJ +21 (11,10) and Mookie Betts +63 (32,31 —-LOL). JD Martinez checks in at -27 (-22,-5), which means that if you move Bradley, your outfield becomes Martinez, Benintendi, Betts, which only would have saved 35 runs last year opposed to 50 (Betts can save 35 alone).

The second question in regards to moving Bradley is who would play center? The likely guess is Benintendi, because Betts is so valuable in right field saving some 30+ runs a year. When Benintendi filled in for Bradley last year, he actually cost the Red Sox 2 runs, and for as great as Betts is, he was only +9 in 2015 when he was the regular center fielder. Center fielders are graded more harshly that corner outfielders, so +9 for Betts is nothing to sneeze at. But the right field version of Mookie is doing something no one else in baseball is capable of doing. The center field version of Mookie was above average, but not excelling. Bottom line, Bradley makes a difference.

Payroll. There are some conflicting reports out there as to what the Red Sox total payroll is, but when in doubt, trust @redsoxstats.

The reason for staying under $237 million doesn’t really have so much to do with the luxury tax as it does with draft positioning. Being over $237 million brings about a loss of 10 draft spots on your top pick. Last year the Red Sox stole Tanner Houck with the 24th pick (he should have been top 10 based on stuff alone). The Minnesota Twins took Brent Rooker 35th. Both will be very good major league players.This isn’t like the NBA or NFL draft where the talent decreases as you go down the board. You can find major league players at any pick, it all just depends on how they develop/you help develop them. Seems kinda silly to intentionally cost yourself 10 spots in the draft order though.

Obviously staying under $237 million wouldn’t be a big issue if the Red Sox weren’t still paying ~$30 million to Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo. Oh well. Being at about ~$239 million means you need to shed about $2 million in salary. Brock Holt makes $2.25 million. Almost like Dombrowski planned the signings of Nunez and Martinez around the ability to get rid of Brock Holt. Shocking.

-Brian Borders (@bborders12)

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