Red Sox

Red Sox want JD Martinez to be big bat addition

Red Sox want JD Martinez to be big bat addition

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox need a big bat. Dave Dombrowski is the president of baseball operations.

Naturally, they’re going to focus on the best and likely most expensive hitter in free agency.

The Red Sox are 90-10 in their pursuit of J.D. Martinez compared to other(s), a baseball source said Tuesday. That doesn’t mean a deal is 90 percent done, or that a deal is 90 percent likely to happen — it's a matter of whom they're pursuing.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Tuesday that the Red Sox were set to meet with Martinez face to face at the winter meetings. Dombrowski declined comment when asked whether Sox would meet with Martinez.

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Dombrowski said generally Tuesday that he knows who he wants at this point.

“Sure we know,” Dombrowski said. “I mean, there’s at least a pool of players that we want. I mean, I have the list in my pocket.”

“And there’s a variety of guys that would fit that description. But yeah, we know who we want. But you’re in touch with two things, the trade market and also the free agency market. You don’t control those by yourself. … There’s a lot of conversations that are taking place right now around the industry.”

The Sox boss also said he’s in a situation where the team wants to move faster than the (non-specific) player and agent.

“For sure. I mean, I’d rather be done right now,” Dombrowski said. “I’d be sitting here making a couple of announcements or an announcement or whatever it may be, and you know that you don’t unilaterally control that. And it’s not the first time nor will it be the last time in my career that that ends up taking place. Would much rather get things done quicker. But sometimes doesn’t happen.”

Martinez is represented by Scott Boras, who can wait out top-dollar deals with the best of them.

Overall, the market was slowed by Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton.

“I'm not sure [deals are] going to be closed as much here because I think some clubs are still weighing a lot of different options on what they're doing,” Dombrowski said. “Maybe they'll speed it up, because they know we're all together here for another day and a half. So maybe that will change. But right now there's a lot of exploration.”

Martinez, an outfielder, could theoretically move to DH. Dombrowski said he has “not really” gotten the sense that potential pursuits are opposed to going to DH.

One scenario if the Red Sox signed Martinez: play Martinez in left field, trade Jackie Bradley Jr., and put Rafael Devers at first base. That opens up third base for Michael Chavis down the line. 

Dombrowski said any trade where the Sox subtract from the major league roster likely would not be done for the benefit of only the farm system.

“I don't think we would, but I wouldn't rule it out,” Dombrowski said. “We’re not planning on doing that because we're trying to win."

There’s added value in pursuing Martinez because he was traded midseason in 2017. That means it was impossible for his last team, the Diamondbacks, to give him a qualifying offer, so the Sox wouldn’t have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.

It’s important to note that although Martinez will be expensive where ever he goes, there’s no way he gets a deal as large as Giancarlo Stanton’s.

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: David Price recruited J.D. Martinez to Boston?

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

BEST OF BST PODCAST: David Price recruited J.D. Martinez to Boston?

0:41 - Jared Carrabis joins BST to discuss David Price’s recruitment of J.D. Martinez and his comments about what it is like to play in Boston.

6:02 - Tom Curran, Phil Perry, and Tom Giles talk about where the Patriots stand with their wide receivers and if it is a position that should be addressed sooner rather than later.

10:59 - In this segment of NBA Crystal Ball, Chris Forsberg, DJ Bean, and Tom Giles predict what seed the Celtics finish with and which team will send Boston packing this season.

14:25 - Lou Merloni and Evan Drellich discuss the quotes from David Price on the negativity in Boston, what kind of success Price will have this season, and the signing of J.D. Martinez.

Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Now that J.D. Martinez is about to join the fold, the Red Sox have some roster intrigue. But it's not at first base with Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez. It sits on the infield with Brock Holt, Blake Swihart and Deven Marrero.

The ideal Red Sox lineup right now — or at least, the version we think we will see when Martinez is officially inked — has Moreland sitting out more often. Still, remember that we are talking about an ideal. Someone will get hurt. Multiple players, in fact. And even if everyone is healthy, we're in an era where teams prioritize depth and keeping players fresh.

"We've got guys that can play the infield and can play the outfield,” manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. "I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with a roster that's very versatile. That's very important. Guys that can complement each other. I've been talking about rest the whole week. It's very important with the travel and schedule and workload, it's very important to have versatile players on your roster.”

In Martinez, Moreland, and Ramirez, there'll be three players on a daily basis for two spots: first base and designated hitter. Martinez just received a $110 million contract to start, likely at DH. So that leaves Ramirez and Moreland to share time at first.

Ramirez has the leg up. He has the bigger bat and the bigger salary. Plus, Cora on Tuesday said he looks at Ramirez as his No. 3 hitter. It would be odd for Cora to declare as much and then put Ramirez in, say, a platoon with the left-handed hitting Moreland once Martinez is officially signed.

“As of now?” Cora said Tuesday. “Hanley Ramirez.”

With that in mind, here’s a quick review (and projection) of the other starting roles:

C: Christian Vazquez
1B: Hanley Ramirez
2B: Eduardo Nunez
SS: Xander Bogaerts
3B: Rafael Devers
LF: Andrew Benintendi
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.
RF: Mookie Betts
DH: J.D. Martinez 

Make no mistake, Martinez’s arrival will have ripple effects. The Sox traded outfielder Bryce Brentz to the Pirates for cash, clearing a 40-man spot for Martinez, whenever his deal becomes official. (It shouldn’t be long, barring any problems with a physical.) Brentz, a depth right-handed hitting outfielder with pop, was one of a few players the Sox have in camp out of options.

Moreland may well lose some at-bats with Martinez in the fold. Ramirez might too. Unless Ramirez mashes, the Sox will have reason to limit his playing time. At 497 plate appearances, a vesting option kicks in for 2019.

“I was supposed to be in a platoon role last year, split time last year, and I played more than I ever have in my career,” Moreland said Tuesday. “A lot of things can happen. He's a great guy. He's going to be a great addition for us, and looking forward to welcoming him with open arms and watching him help us win.”

Moreland's going to get his crack again this year, you can bet on it. And he also may need some down time himself.

Moreland, 32, had a fractured toe in 2017. His 149 games played were nonetheless a career high. Jackie Bradley Jr. was slowed by injuries last season, as was Mookie Betts, as was Hanley Ramirez, as was even Martinez. 

All it takes is one. An injury in the outfield, for example, could give Martinez more time in left field, in turn opening up the DH spot, in turn opening up more time at first base for Moreland.

Martinez had a sprained right foot to start the 2017 season and played in 119 regular-season games. He had an injury when he first got to Arizona as well (because he was hit by a pitch). He also had a fractured elbow in 2016, when he played 120 games.

People wonder too, well, what happens when Dustin Pedroia comes back? Where does Nunez play? It’s the same principle. Pedroia’s coming off major knee surgery. Nunez is coming off a knee injury of his own. Neither of these guys would do well to be in the lineup every day.

So, what is the real roster intrigue to open the season? If everyone is healthy on Opening Day — and that's also a big if — the bench is tricky.

Assuming the Sox carry 13 position players and that Sandy Leon remains the backup catcher, they'll have to choose two from these three: Brock Holt, who has experience and a $2.2 million salary but also has minor-league options; Deven Marrero, who's the surest defender they have; and Blake Swihart, who's not well versed on the infield but has upside as an athlete and at the plate. Swihart and Marrero do not have options.

Holt, who turns 30 in June, by virtue of his salary, has to be considered a favorite to stick around. At the same time, he's the only one the Sox could freely stash in the minors. Swihart and Marrero have upside that makes them appealing not only to the Sox, but to other teams as well.

Demote Holt? Trade one of Swihart or Marrero? Figure someone's hurt to begin Opening Day?

(Swihart conceivably could be carried as a second catcher, but it'd be hard to see the Sox parting with Leon, whose receiving is so well liked.)

Here's a fuller visual for you:

CATCHERS 
1. Christian Vazquez
2. Sandy Leon

INFIELDERS
3. Mitch Moreland
4. Eduardo Nunez
5. Xander Bogaerts
6. Rafael Devers
7. Hanley Ramirez

OUTFIELDERS
8. Jackie Bradley
9. Andrew Benintendi
10. Mookie Betts
11. J.D. Martinez

BENCH
12. Brock Holt?
13. Deven Marrero?
14. Blake Swihart?

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