Red Sox

Drellich: Red Sox have no choice but to sign J.D. Martinez

Drellich: Red Sox have no choice but to sign J.D. Martinez

Whatever the final concession is that the Red Sox have to make to J.D. Martinez and his agent, Scott Boras, it will eventually be an afterthought. 

Martinez and the Sox need each other. But most of all, the Sox need Martinez.

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Yes, we’re advocating spending a lot of money and decreasing roster flexibility further in an attempt to remedy a roster damaged by those elements already. Why? The circumstances demand it. 

The Sox have a huge need for power with only one spot in the lineup where they can add (as of now, anyway). They reset the luxury tax this year, which enables spending with fewer overages. The free-agent market next year with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will only look scarier in terms of dollars, at a time when both the Dodgers and Yankees are projected to be back under the luxury tax, ready to spend. The American League is starting to look like a battle of super teams. And the Sox' farm system is so thin that trading for a slugger probably (although not definitively) makes little sense. 

As of now, Boras and Martinez want seven years. Whatever the last hurdle proves to be — maybe it’s an extra year, maybe it’s a little higher average annual value — Dave Dombrowski has to clear it.

He can and should wait out his targets. But this waiting game, this matter of an extra year (or two?) boils down to reputation, really.

Sign Martinez for seven years and Dombrowski plays the part he’s often criticized for: overspender. There goes Dombo, just throwing money around again. Anybody can do that.

It’s not ideal roster management to sacrifice the future for the present. But the Sox have made a play for the near future, and one extra year for a star slugger isn’t going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Missing out on that star slugger could be.

The team is already pot committed to the present, with Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and the Killer B’s. Upgrading the lineup in a meaningful way isn’t easy. This is a universal truth around the league: going from bad to decent is one thing. Going from good to excellent is much, much harder, and the acquisition cost is much more difficult to judge conventionally.

There’s always risk. No one is blind to the dangers of free agency. But there’s more risk letting Martinez walk.

The Sox are boxed in. And as far as any big free agent move goes, inking Martinez is much more defensible than many other deals. There's no qualifying offer attached.

The present market is what matters most for the Sox, rightfully. How far are other teams willing to go?

From the player side, there is precedent behind the seven-year ask. Martinez, entering his age-30 season, would be locked up through his age-36 season. Matt Holliday, a Boras client, got a seven-year deal through age 36. Same with Chris Davis. And Mark Teixeira got an eight-year deal through age 36. (David Price got a seven-year deal through age-36, for what it’s worth.)

Everyone knows these deals don’t often work out at the back end. The Sox should strive for the fewest years possible. But there is precedent in the demand.

Dombo has been payday happy in the past. At times, late Tigers owner Mike Ilitch pushed Dombrowski to moves he didn’t want to do — some moves smart, some not. (Dombrowski didn't want to pay Max Scherzer $200 million, but wound up paying Price even more in Boston.)

But Dombrowski should not need John Henry or anyone else to affirm this observation: after a year without David Ortiz, after a decrease in production from others in the lineup and now, ratcheted up expectations with a new manager, the Sox need Martinez. (Henry and co. were willing to give Teiexiera a longer deal than whatever Martinez will likely end up with.) 

Everything that brought the Red Sox to this point — some mismanagement with previous contracts, misjudgments in need and depth — well, that stuff is complicated. The series of events preceding this moment was not simple.

But a move to help fix things, in this case, seems clear as day, even if it has deleterious effects years down the road. 

The product is what matters most. Martinez is a monster. 

There are six players with an OPS above .930 from 2014-17: Mike Trout (.992), Joey Votto (.982), Paul Goldschmidt (.953), Giancarlo Stanton (.939), Bryce Harper (.937) and Martinez (.936). That’s higher than Kris Bryant (.915) and Nolan Arenado (.911).

Only 10 players under age 30 have posted a season with an OPS above 1.000 this decade. 

Martinez’s 128 home runs are 10th most over the past four seasons. From 2015-17, he’s eighth on the list with 105 home runs — the same number as Manny Machado in that time, and two more than Trout.

Martinez’s swing and approach were changed in the 2013-14 offseason. The Astros let Martinez go in spring training and his career took off in Detroit. The overall power is not a fluke.

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is he had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator-cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole-body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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