Red Sox

Conditions aligning for J.D. Martinez to opt out of Red Sox contract and cash in this fall

Conditions aligning for J.D. Martinez to opt out of Red Sox contract and cash in this fall

If the words "J.D. Martinez opt-out" send shivers after a season of constant speculation that finally ended with the slugging DH staying put, we've got some bad news: prepare for a reprise.

While Martinez elected to remain in Boston this winter for reasons beyond his control, conditions will be ripe for his departure in the fall. Martinez actually negotiated opt-outs after each of the next two seasons, but there are a number of reasons why 2020 represents the sweet spot.

Before we get to them, though, it's worth backing up.

Had the market broken differently this winter, Martinez would've opted out in October. He and agent Scott Boras, however, made a realistic calculation that no contenders with money needed a DH. Martinez wanted to avoid a repeat of 2018, when the Red Sox were the only team to bid on him, never budging off the five-year, $110 million contract he ended up signing.

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This time around, though, Martinez couldn't even count on the Red Sox to be there waiting if no other deals materialized, because the team's stated desire to cut payroll meant it would almost certainly wave goodbye.

Martinez had to know that he'd in effect be cutting himself, and that furthermore, saving his $22 million against the luxury tax was, in fact, the team's desired outcome, no matter how essential his bat is to the middle of the order.

So he exercised pragmatism and returned for a third season, hoping to maintain the numbers that have made him a two-time All-Star in Boston, where he has averaged .317 with 40 homers, 118 RBIs, and a .985 OPS.

That's elite middle-of-the-order production that isn't as widely valued as it should be, since Martinez is 32 and largely limited to DH. So what might change this winter?

For one, Martinez's salary drops from $23.75 million to $19.35 million in each of the next two seasons. While that doesn't impact his AAV, it does decrease his real-world dollars and make it easier for a new deal to surpass what's left on his old one — in this case, as little as two years and $40 million would equal a raise.

Then there's the landscape. A contender like the Twins could be in the market for a DH next winter if Nelson Cruz is not re-signed at age 40. The same is true of the White Sox, who just signed Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year deal, but could make a significant splash if their young talent develops as promised and they become full-bore contenders in 2021.

We also shouldn't discount the Red Sox, not after they slashed payroll in order to reset their luxury tax penalties, which means they'll have money to spend next winter. Because Martinez will be 33 and can no longer play the field full-time, his price in baseball's current system shouldn't be exorbitant.

The real X-factor, however, is the future of the DH.

It seems inevitable that the National League will adopt the rule in time for the next CBA, which begins in 2022. Former GM Jim Bowden recently reported that multiple NL GMs believe the change could happen as soon as next season, which would suddenly make Martinez one of the most desirable names on the market.

Very few NL rosters currently boast one-dimensional sluggers, for obvious reasons. Give Martinez 15 new job openings, and he'll have no trouble finding suitors. He could even land another nine-figure deal, his veteran bat and presence remaking the lineup of, say, the Braves or Phillies.

It's also worth noting that if the Red Sox fall from contention, Martinez could fetch a considerable return at the trade deadline as an impact stretch-run bat. He has a limited no-trade clause of three teams which are unidentified, though AL clubs make the most sense if Martinez's goal is to limit Boston's ability to move him.

Even a midseason trade would improve his market, though, because it would remove draft pick compensation from the equation should he choose to enter free agency.

For that to happen, he'll have to opt out, which means we haven't heard the last of those two words as they relate to the Red Sox slugger.

Not by a longshot.

David Ortiz holds impressive American League record this century

David Ortiz holds impressive American League record this century

David Ortiz is one of MLB's best designated hitters of all time.

For 14 years, Ortiz played as a member of the Boston Red Sox after the Minnesota Twins let him go. In Boston, Ortiz became one of the game's most powerful sluggers and posted a career average of .290 with 483 homers with the Red Sox.

Given Ortiz's immense success with the club, it's no surprise that he's among the century's best at launching the long ball. According to Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf on Twitter), Ortiz has more home runs this century than any other player in the American League.

Ortiz just edged out Alex Rodriguez (507 homers) for the overall lead though Ortiz did it in 438 more at-bats. Aside from A-Rod, no other player is within 100 homers of Big Papi.

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This is surely an impressive mark and it speaks to just how good Ortiz was during his time with Boston. When adding in his 17 postseason homers, Ortiz hit exactly 500 career homers with the Red Sox and helped power them to three World Series titles during his time with the team. And 93 percent of his homers this century, postseason included, came in a Red Sox uniform.

It may take a while for any player to pass Ortiz for this high-water mark. Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout is probably the most likely candidate to pass Ortiz as the 28-year-old currently has 285 homers in 4,340 at-bats that have all come with the Angels. Trout is under contract with the Angels until 2031 so unless he's traded out of the AL, he seems to be on pace to eventually beat Ortiz.

But that could take close to another decade. And until then, Ortiz will reign supreme on this century's AL home run leaderboard.

10 memorable individual performances in Red Sox home openers

10 memorable individual performances in Red Sox home openers

Today should've been the 108th opener at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox as they were to host the Chicago White Sox to begin their home schedule.

But as we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that as well as the rest of the world. 

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There's still hope that they'll be baseball at Fenway in 2020, but on the day the gates were supposed to open and signal the unofficial start of spring in Boston, let's look back at a few of the Red Sox's most memorable individual performances with some Opening Day Dreaming Delivered by Coors Light.

April 20, 1912

The Red Sox christened Fenway Park by beating their rivals from New York, then known as the Highlanders, 7-6 in 11 innings before 24,000, including Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of future president John F. Kennedy, and the Royal Rooters.

Tris Speaker (pictured, 3-for-6, two RBI, game-winning single) and Steve Yerkes (5-for-7) were your hitting heroes for a team that would go on to win the World Series. 

April 12, 1916

A left-hander named Babe Ruth held the Philadelphia A's to one unearned run on four hits and strikes out six in 8 1/3 innings. He went 0-for-2 batting ninth, proving he didn't have much of a future as a hitter. The '16 Sox would go on to win the World Series. 

April 6, 1973

On a day that featured the debut of the designated hitter in the American League, catcher Carlton Fisk, coming off his rookie of the year season, got his second year off to a booming start with three hits, including a two-run homer of Yankees ace Mel Stottlemyre, and six RBI as the Sox spotted their archrivals a three-run lead and roll, 15-5.

(Now, if we could just forget Fisk's three-run, eighth-inning homer for the White Sox in a 5-3 Red Sox loss in the Fenway opener in '81 after Boston let him switch Sox as a free agent that winter.) 

April 10, 1998

Mo Vaughn hit a walk-off grand slam to cap the Red Sox' rally from a five-run deficit off a Mariners bullpen that featured ex-Sox relievers Tony Fossas and Heathcliff Slocumb and future Sox reliever Mike Timlin.

Those that stuck around Fenway when it was 7-2 to start the ninth headed home happy after an 8-7 win on Opening Day. The Sox would go on to make the playoffs at 92-70 but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Cleveland Indians. 

April 1, 2002

Tony Clark, the future head of the MLB Players Association, was a Red Sox first baseman for 90 games in 2002. In the first of those, he went 3-for-5 with a home run and drove in three runs.

The Sox needed all of them in a wild 12-11 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Clark would help the Sox out even more two years later when, as a Yankee, his ground-rule double in the ninth kept Ruben Sierra from scoring from first and ending ALCS Game 5 and with it, the Sox' World Series hopes.

April 11, 2005 

In addition to being memorable for the pregame ring ceremony and banner raising that was 86 years in the making (and for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera being cheered and Alex Rodriguez, pictured, jeered by the Fenway fans for their roles in the Sox' 2004 pennant), the Sox got a strong pitching performance from Tim Wakefield in an 8-1 thumping of the Yankees.

Veterans of '04 Wakefield (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 SOs), Trot Nixon (2-for-3, two RBI) and Doug Mirabelli (two-run homer) started '05 off right.

April 8, 2008

The Sox home opener in 2008 was another banner-raising day that included a tearful Bill Buckner emerging from the Green Monster to a standing ovation to throw out the first pitch.

After the pregame festivities, the Sox rolled to a 5-0 shutout over the Detroit Tigers. Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-3 with two RBI and Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed four hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. 

April 7, 2009

Josh Beckett held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run on two hits and struck out 10 as the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3.

Beckett would go on to win 17 games and the Sox racked up 95 victories that season before being swept by the Angels in the ALDS.

April 8, 2013

Clay Buchholz got another championship season off to a great start as he shut out the Baltimore Orioles for seven innings on three hits.

Daniel Nava's three-run homer provided the offense in a 3-1 victory.

April 13, 2015

Mookie Betts showed off his future MVP form early in the 2015 season with a 2-for-4, four-RBI day that included a three-run homer in the second inning and two stolen bases in the first.

All of that came after he robbed Bryce Harper of a home run in the first with a leaping grab in front of the bullpen fence in right. The Sox went on to a 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals but it didn't portend to good things as they finished 78-84 and last in the AL East. 

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