The Red Sox are not planning to extend a qualifying offer to veteran slugger J.D. Martinez, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Heyman’s report comes at what may be the beginning of an offseason of transition in Boston. With Xander Bogaerts’ opt-out clause looming and extension talks with Rafael Devers having yet to yield any results, Martinez could be one of multiple all-stars whose time in Boston may soon come to an end.
Martinez, age 35, is coming off of his fifth season with Boston, during which he played 139 games and slashed .274/.341/.448. Though Martinez rated as a well above average offensive player by wRC+ (119), his 16 2022 home runs are his fewest in a season since 2013. 2022 was also the first season in Martinez’s career that the five-time all-star did not log a single inning at a defensive position, as Alex Cora used him exclusively as a designated hitter. Martinez ought to have no problem finding employment next season, however. He has been one of the most consistent and productive hitters over the last decade, averaging 26 home runs and a .293 average since 2013.
MLBTR ranks Martinez as the best full-time DH available this offseason. He will headline a DH-class that includes other options such as Matt Carpenter and Nelson Cruz. Full-time DH’s have reduced earning power compared to other free agents due to their limited defense. The market for this player prototype has the potential to appeal any club looking for a discounted injection of offense without shuffling their defensive alignment. Assured production is paramount when a team decides to commit substantial resources to an offense-only player. Out of the three, Martinez is by far the surest bet. The contrast of Carpenter’s herculean summer with the Yankees and his paltry 2019-2021 leaves uncertainty about in his ability to produce going forward. Carpenter does have the ability to play some defense, however, having lined up at all four corner positions in 2022. Cruz looked ageless until last season, when he experienced substantial drops in hard-contact rate and exit velocity in the midst of his worst offensive season ever as a big league regular.
As the market’s best full-time DH, there ought to be plenty of teams looking to add some thump to their lineup that will consider signing Martinez. Logical suitors may theoretically include the Diamondbacks, who are looking for a right-handed bat, per Heyman, and the Marlins, who plan to address their weak offense this offseason. That being said, any team that may be inclined to add a full-time DH figures to have interest in Martinez on a one or two-year deal with an AAV below the qualifying offer worth $19.65 MM.
It is also possible that Martinez winds up back with Boston, despite the fact that the Red Sox are not planning to extend him a qualifying offer. Chaim Bloom’s decision to not tie draft pick compensation to Martinez’s free agency is likely to be rooted in the Sox’ evaluation of what Martinez could be worth in 2023, as opposed to whether or not they he would like to keep him on Boston’s roster. Martinez has been well worth the 5-year, $110MM deal he signed with the Red Sox in the 2017-2018 offseason and has given every indication that he can still be a productive DH. If Martinez does not receive a qualifying offer, it would indicate Bloom’s unwillingness to pay a full-time DH, albeit a productive one, a salary of $19.65 MM. It could also signify Bloom’s desire to provide consistent opportunity for some of Boston’s core of young first baseman/DH types, like Bobby Dalbec and Triston Casas. They also have Eric Hosmer on the roster, though it’s unclear how committed they are to him. With the Padres paying down the majority of his contract, Boston is only on the hook for the league minimum salary and could cut ties if they found options they liked better.
In a postgame interview with NESN’s Jahmai Webster on October 6, Martinez expressed gratitude to his teammates and to Boston fans for their support, adding that he’ll “see what happens” in free agency (via Twitter). If he does wind up back with the Red Sox, it will be interesting to see how close Martinez’s new salary will come to the $19.65 MM figure that the Boston appears unlikely to offer him.
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