The baseball free agent market has been at a virtual standstill for weeks. Right, J.D. Martinez? But the Chicago Cubs broke the virtual ice Saturday with the addition of right-hander Yu Darvish, who reportedly agreed to a six-year, $126 million contract that makes Wrigley Field his new home.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox and J.D. Martinez remained in negotiation on Monday, sources said.
There was no indication a deal was nearing as of early Monday afternoon, but the sides continue to talk. The industry belief has long been that the Sox are Martinez's most logical landing spot, but a source said there are alternatives.
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The Red Sox braintrust was together Monday morning and midday at JetBlue Park, with both principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner on hand.
Werner in January confirmed the Sox were in active negotiations with Martinez. On Monday, he deferred questions to Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
“I think you should talk to Dave about that,” Werner said. “Obviously there’s no news, but I think you should ask Dave that question."
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Werner and Henry both said they were bullish on the Sox if they do not sign Martinez. Werner was asked whether the Sox have an obligation to improve last year’s team with outside help. Right now, the team is virtually identical.
“We have an obligation to try to win the World Series every year,” Werner said. “Sometimes you go in one direction, sometimes you go in another direction. We’re not ceding first place to anybody. Obviously, we have to be better in the playoffs. As John said, we think our approach is better this year and we think we’re going to have if not the highest payroll in baseball, one of the two or three highest payrolls in baseball. We have a great general manager and a great team to figure out how to deploy it and we certainly feel like we’re moving forward.”
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Change your approach and change your coaches, just not your lineup.
Red Sox owner John Henry on Monday said that the Red Sox have, in fact, changed ahead of 2018 despite adding no new players from the outside to their major league roster.
“From my perspective, people have talked about [how with the roster] we haven’t made a lot of changes in the last year,” Henry said. “In my mind, we’ve made significant changes to address some of the things that were brought up. I do think we had issues last year that … and we’ve addressed those changes.”
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Henry pointed to the coaching staff under Farrell, and the approach at the plate the group fostered. Although Henry did not mention former hitting coach Chili Davis by name, the offense was his charge — and the charge of assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez as well. That duo in 2016 presided over the best offense in baseball before a drop-off in production arrived in 2017, when David Ortiz was gone.
“We’ve made a lot of changes other than just the managers,” Henry said. “You haven’t noticed? I think, who did we bring back? Dana [LeVangie], I think. Anyone else? I’m just saying, from my perspective at least, we’ve made a lot of changes. I think our approach last year was lacking offensively and we had issues that the players have already talked about. I don’t really need to talk about it, but I agree with what’s been said. But I don’t agree that we haven’t really made much in the way of changes. I think these were significant changes.”
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner chimed in at that point attempted to diffuse some of the attention being placed on the notion of approach.
“It wasn’t just that,” Werner said. “It’s an easy thing to say but health is so important. We had that first game in Houston, and both [Xander] Bogaerts and [Dustin] Pedroia were banged up and [Eduardo] Nunez gets hurt. So, you know, we talked to Alex Cora later about sort of what it was like facing the Red Sox from across the diamond and they were confident that they could beat us because we just weren’t at peak health. I’ll take my chances again this year if our team is healthy.”
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Asked if a change at manager was considered, Henry pointed to how onerous a task that can be in season.
“I think for somewhat obvious reasons,” Henry said. "I mean it’s just, these things happen generally — you can’t make wholesales changes during a season. I mean you can, but, we still won the division. I think if we had been healthy, that would’ve been [inaudible] we could’ve done better in the playoffs. I think as time went on, again it wasn’t just approach. There were other issues — and, there were other issues and I think we’ve addressed those. I think we will address those. They’ve been addressed.”
The mix of players were not one of the elements that needed to be addressed.
"No, I think we have the right team," Henry said. "I thought people don’t like us apparently saying we won the division the last two years but we have the best offense in the American League the year before last. We had significant pitching that was injured last year. I think we are very strong and people are highly underrating this team. If we have the right approach, I think we’ll be very successful.”
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Henry threw a bone to Farrell in the closing comments of the interview, in response to a question about what Alex Cora brings.
“I know I’ve spoken about things we wanted to change from last year,” Henry said. “Under John Farrell we had tremendous success, he was a great manager for us. But, there came a point where we felt we really needed to change directions and make a change and we did. But he still did a terrific job for us.”