If J.D. Martinez wants to avoid being traded this offseason, he can strategically deploy a little-noticed provision in his contract to shift the odds significantly in his favor.
Martinez holds a limited no-trade clause that on its surface wouldn't seem to provide much protection. He can designate three teams at the start of each offseason, and those teams can change from year to year. He must inform the Red Sox by the end of this month.
A three-team no-trade list may not sound like much, but given the depressed market that helped Martinez decide not to opt out of his contract in the first place, he could effectively eliminate the field by designating the most likely suitors for his services. And with the Red Sox trying to figure out how to cut payroll to drop below $208 million for luxury-tax reasons, they could be tempted to move Martinez and the $23.75 million he's due in 2020.
A traditional no-trade might block the Yankees, Dodgers, and say, the Mets, big-market clubs with the means to absorb Martinez's salary. Players like San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner have notably included high-payroll clubs on their no-trade lists not necessarily because they don't want to be traded to one, but because they want the leverage to demand additional concessions if a deal is struck.
But what if Martinez were to focus his no-trade on three teams most likely to desire his services and block the White Sox, Rangers, and maybe Blue Jays? All three have money to spend and potential openings at DH. All three could make a case for Martinez either putting them in contention or playing a vital role in the development of young players. And all three were presumed candidates to sign him had Martinez entered free agency.
We've already laid out the case against most of baseball pursuing Martinez. He's a bad fit in the National League, because he's no longer a full-time outfielder. Most of the AL either already has a DH (Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim, Nelson Cruz in Minnesota, Yordan Alvarez in Houston, etc. . . .) or can't afford one due $62.5 million over the next three years (Tampa, Cleveland, Kansas City, etc. . . .)
Of the handful of teams left, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox dealing with the Yankees. About the only calculus Martinez would have to perform is whether the Mariners should replace the Jays on his list, which he might want to consider, since T-Mobile, the park formerly known as Safeco, remains a graveyard.
In any event, he could virtually guarantee that any decision to leave Boston would be his. While we don't know what teams he listed in the first two years of his Red Sox deal -- it hardly seemed relevant, given their contending status -- his choices this time around could greatly increase the likelihood that he's not going anywhere.
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