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.

Pomeranz says issue is 'clear-cut,' but mystery is unsolved

Pomeranz says issue is 'clear-cut,' but mystery is unsolved

PHILADELPHIA — Drew Pomeranz’s story at this point is less about the Red Sox and more about the individual, and it’s a minor mystery.

Theoretically, the free-agent-to-be can still find a way to help the Sox down the stretch. Eat some innings, look a little better. But barring a dramatic turnaround or a strange situation elsewhere on the pitching staff, he’s not sniffing the postseason roster.

The lefty's ERA rose to 6.34 on Wednesday night in a 7-4 Red Sox loss to the Phils, after he allowed three earned runs in an inning of work. He faced eight batters, allowed three hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Pomeranz has been so much better than this in past seasons. And he's too young, 29, for his stuff to just disappear. 

Alex Cora left Pomeranz in the game as trouble grew, the manager said, because he wanted to see how Pomeranz would fare in a late-inning relief role. The other part: Matt Barnes and Tyler Thornburg were both unavailable because of workload, per the manager. (Neither has pitched since the weekend, but Barnes did throw three straight days in Baltimore, while Thornburg — who briefly warmed up on Thursday, before Cora went a different direction — is coming back from surgery. The Sox have the division padding to be cautious.)

The most difficult thing to accept is that Pomeranz is healthy. His velocity this year is the lowest of his career, 89.59 mph entering Thursday night, per BrooksBaseball.net.

He was at 91.78 mph in 2017, at 91.93 in 2016 and had a career-high 93.08 in 2015. His stuff isn’t playing up in any notable way out of the ‘pen now, either.

“I feel fine, like I said it’s something that I started doing at the end of last year, started drifting this way,” Pomeranz reiterated to NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve just been kind of stuck in that. I’ve done a thousand things to try and get out of it. I don’t know what it is, but, you know it’s something I’m definitely focusing on every single day, catch. I don’t know, something’s going to click eventually. That’s what I’m waiting for. Other than that I feel healthy. Health-wise, I feel fine."

There wouldn’t be much logic in Pomeranz maintaining he is healthy if he is not. Any team interested in him this winter will get a chance to review his medicals. Were he to hypothetically hide something, there wouldn’t be much potential gain — not at this point in the year, when salvaging his season to the point of a major payday is unlikely.

Pomeranz said his impending free agency hasn’t weighed on him.

“I don’t think so,” Pomeranz said. "I’ve pretty much narrowed it down, that it’s the main reason. It’s pretty clear-cut. You talk to [Brian] Bannister and look at my data, my release point’s short of what it’s been the last two years. And that just goes along with me blocking myself off. Open up, then you can reach out and get better extension and that’s pretty much what’s happening so."

Perhaps Pomeranz really can’t get his mechanics right for a reason that has nothing to do with health. But to lose a couple miles per hour on his fastball the whole season just for mechanics is an uncommon situation. Whether and when and how he proves that to be the case will be interesting to watch, even if it’s not with the Sox. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Red Sox win streak ends at five with loss to Phillies, 7-4

Red Sox win streak ends at five with loss to Phillies, 7-4

PHILADELPHIA -- Wilson Ramos became an instant favorite with his new team.

Ramos had three extra-base hits and three RBI, helping the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Boston Red Sox 7-4 on Wednesday night in his first game wearing red pinstripes.

The Phillies, who remained two games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East, split a two-game interleague series with the major league-leading Red Sox for the second time in three weeks.

Ramos, the two-time All-Star catcher acquired from Tampa Bay on July 31, made a big impact after missing a month because of a strained hamstring. He hit his second career triple and first in seven years leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, chugging around the bases after his liner off Joe Kelly (4-1) to right-center took an odd bounce off the wall.

Ramos scored on pinch-hitter Scott Kingery's sacrifice fly to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead. He hammered a two-run double with two outs in the seventh off Drew Pomeranz to extend the lead to 6-3 and scored on Maikel Franco's single.

"It is a special day for me," Ramos said. "I'll remember it like my MLB debut. I wanted to show everybody what I can do."

Ramos provided a huge spark for a struggling offense, and also threw out Brock Holt trying to steal second from his knees. He finished the night getting a cooler shower on the field.

"Tremendous performance," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "He showed he fits into our style of offense. He was a calming influence for our bullpen."

Seven relievers combined to allow one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings for Philadelphia. Tommy Hunter (4-2) earned the win by getting one out in the sixth. Seranthony Dominguez got four outs for his 13th save in 16 chances.

"It was a collective group effort from the bullpen," Hunter said.

Down 3-0, the Phillies rallied in the fourth against Nathan Eovaldi. Ramos hit an RBI double off the top of the fence in right and Nick Williams scored on Odubel Herrera's RBI groundout. With two outs, pinch-hitter Carlos Santana ripped an RBI single past second baseman Holt positioned in shallow right to tie it at 3.

Eovaldi allowed three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in five innings during his fourth start for the Red Sox.

"We'll take 7-2 on any road trip during the season," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We went through a tough stretch and to do what we did, I'm proud of them."

Phillies starter Vince Velasquez lasted only 2 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, four hits and four walks. Velasquez ran into trouble in the third when he walked Eovaldi with one out and hit Andrew Benintendi with a pitch. Holt reached on an infield single and Mitch Moreland lined a three-run double to left-center that skipped past Herrera and cleared the bases.

Velasquez was pulled after he walked J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts to load the bases again. Hector Neris entered and escaped the jam by retiring Jackie Bradley Jr.on a shallow fly to right and striking out Rafael Devers.

REPLAY HELP

Devers appeared to score the go-ahead run in the sixth when he came around from second base to cross the plate after pinch-hitter Steve Pearce was ruled safe on a close play at first following a grounder to second. But a video review showed first baseman Justin Bour stayed on the bag as he stretched to catch a wide throw from Cesar Hernandez.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez is slated for a rehab start Monday for Double-A Portland. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since July 15 with a right ankle sprain. ... 2B Ian Kinsler is expected to return Friday from a strained left hamstring.

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp was sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room on the roster for Ramos after he came off the disabled list.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: After an off day, LHP Brian Johnson (3-3, 3.95 ERA) starts Friday night vs. Tampa Bay.

Phillies: Starters for Thursday's doubleheader against the New York Mets haven't been announced. Zach Eflin (8-4, 3.57) is expected to be recalled from Triple-A to start one of the games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE