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.

Drellich: These Red Sox can do no wrong

Drellich: These Red Sox can do no wrong

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- We’re not firing on all cylinders yet. The scary thing is, we’re not even playing our best. Just wait until we really get going.

You’ve heard these phrases and their variants before. They’re typically worthless.

RED SOX 9, ANGELS 0

Someone is always performing poorly. Always. That’s life in a sport where the best teams lose 40 percent of the time, where the best hitters fail 7 times out of 10, and all the other cliches.

What may be most remarkable about the Red Sox’ 15-2 run is that for an extended time, we are seeing a baseball team actually bump up against its ceiling. They have four grand slams. There are two major- league teams that have only three wins.

They are actually playing their best.

“It’s very rare,” Alex Cora said Wednesday night, after becoming the first rookie manager in history to begin his career with 15 wins in 17 games. “There’s always something that is not going with the others. But right now, defense pitching and offense -- base running too. You know, we were aggressive today  [when Eduardo Nunez was thrown out trying to stretch a double] but we’ll take that one. We’re doing better. We’re doing a lot better. And I don’t know, man. It’s just, it’s just fun to watch.

“I know how good they are. But it’s just something about them, they make you feel confident. You show up every day to work, I enjoy it, I’m having a blast with them. Not only in the dugout, but in the clubhouse. It’s fun. It’s fun to be around them. It’s a good group, and we’re growing together, we’re learning together and you know, we’re going to keep getting better."

“All systems go” rarely has more validity as a description for a baseball team than it does the Red Sox at present.

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“I’ve been fortunate to be on some good teams and I’m sure I have [had similar stretches], but not, I don’t think, to this extent, where we’re playing good defense, we’re throwing the ball so well,” said Mitch Moreland, who homered Wednesday night in a 9-0 win over the Angels. “We’re coming up with big hits. Everybody in the clubhouse has done something to help the team win. It might just be because it’s fresh on my mind, but it stands out as good a ball as I think I’ve been a part of in the big leagues.”

Imagine how good a team can be if everyone is healthy and performing well. (By the way, the Sox are missing Xander Bogaerts.) But the best 17-game start in the 118-year history of a franchise has been inclusive of virtually everyone. Even Blake Swihart is getting some at-bats in these blowouts. 

Perhaps the bullpen feels a little left out lately, because the Sox are romping. These are thoroughly dominating performances, led by starting pitching. Rick Porcello -- who we may now more often mention won a Cy Young award two years ago -- has one walk in four starts. He’s 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA.

Rafael Devers, meanwhile, is the youngest Sox player to hit a grand slam since Tony Conigliaro in 1965.

Things will change. They’ll get ugly at some point. For now, though, there’s no waiting to see what a team looks like when everything is actually working. 

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Red Sox continue rolling with 9-0 rout of Angels

Red Sox continue rolling with 9-0 rout of Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Everything is going right for the Boston Red Sox, and it has propelled them to the best start in the franchise's long history.

Rafael Devers hit his first career grand slam, Rick Porcello threw six scoreless innings and the Red Sox improved to 15-1 since losing on opening day with a 9-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.

Mitch Moreland had four RBI, including a two-run homer in the ninth, and J.D Martinez hit a solo shot in the seventh to help the Red Sox to their sixth consecutive win.

The Red Sox are the fifth team since the American League was established in 1901 to post at least 14 wins in their first 17 games.

"We've had a pretty good run at it here, pretty much the whole season so far," Moreland said. "It seems like one through nine, everybody is kind of stepping up. Obviously, been throwing the ball really well on the mound. Just playing a real complete game, a clean game right now."

Devers hit a home run for the second game in a row, putting his third of the season off the wall in right field just over the yellow line to make it 6-0 after Moreland singled to score Mookie Betts.

After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, Porcello (4-0) cruised to his league-leading fourth win. He gave up six hits and struck out six without issuing a walk.

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first. Hanley Ramirez doubled to center, with the ball landing just past a leaping Mike Trout, and Moreland drove him in with a single to right.

"Our offense is really setting the tone right now and doing an incredible job. I mean, they are doing a great job of getting on their starter early," Porcello said. "The runs they are putting up, we're just going out there and attacking the strike zone and get outs and chew up as much of the game as possible."

Tyler Skaggs (2-1) gave up six runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings for the Angels, who have lost two straight following a seven-game winning streak.

The Angels have been outscored 19-1 through the first two games of the series.

"You're going to run into some waves like this where it just doesn't seem like you're putting things together, but we're a much better offensive team than in the last couple of years," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts (ankle) took ground balls during batting practice, but manager Alex Cora said "there's no rush" to bring him back. . RHP Steven Wright (knee) will start at Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. . LHP Bobby Poyner (hamstring) will be sent out on a rehab assignment soon, with weather likely determining where he will go.

Angels: Shohei Ohtani is expected to make his next start after being limited to two innings Tuesday because of a blister on the middle finger of his right hand. Ohtani will be available to hit against the Red Sox on Thursday. . RHP JC Ramirez underwent surgery to repair a torn UCL on Tuesday.

CALIFORNIA SUN

The Red Sox have not been good in the Pacific Time Zone, posting a .438 win percentage (89-114) when playing on the West Coast over the previous 16 seasons. After not winning a series at the Angels, Oakland or Seattle last season, they already have one under their belt.

AT HOME ON THE ROAD

Devers extended his road hitting streak to 12 games dating back to Sept. 18, 2017, and it was his fourth homer in that span. He has a hit in 19 of his last 21 road games going back to last season.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-0, 3.72) gave up one run in six innings against Baltimore on Friday. Rodriguez's only career start at Angel Stadium was a brief one, giving up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in 2015.

Angels: RHP Nick Tropeano (1-0, 0.00) held Kansas City scoreless in 6 2/3 innings to get the win Thursday. Tropeano has never faced the Red Sox.

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