Red Sox

How J.D. Martinez could turn a 3-team no-trade clause into a virtual guarantee he stays with Red Sox

How J.D. Martinez could turn a 3-team no-trade clause into a virtual guarantee he stays with Red Sox

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.

TOMASE: Why it makes sense for Boston to keep Martinez over Betts>>>

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Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

The Red Sox have employed all manner of center fielders throughout their history.

Whereas left field has generally been home to run producers and right to all-around threats, the men in the middle have covered a wide range of styles. There are straight speedsters like Jacoby Ellsbury, defensive dynamos like Jackie Bradley Jr., fun-loving eccentric types like Johnny Damon, underappreciated standouts like Ellis Burks, and even plodding sluggers like Tony Armas.

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Only in recent years have the Red Sox consistently prioritized defense in the role, from Coco Crisp to Ellsbury to Bradley.

But that doesn't mean they haven't featured some talented players there, including a turn-of-century Hall of Famer, the younger brother of baseball royalty, and the one who fans over 50 still lament got away.

Click here for the Top 5 center fielders in Red Sox history.

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

There was once a time when a list of baseball's top 100 players would've been dominated by men in their 30s or even 40s. In 2004, for instance, the NL MVP was 39-year-old Barry Bonds and the Cy Young went to 41-year-old Roger Clemens. It was the seventh respective award for each.

We now can be almost certain that neither accomplishment was achieved without help, but if any good came from that era, it's that it forced baseball to address its PED problem, which means that a top 100 list now looks very different.

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Our list will reflect that shift. What it won't include are three pitchers guaranteed not to play in 2020 because of Tommy John surgery — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and of course Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Over the next four weeks, NBC Sports Boston will unveil its top 100 players, 25 at a time, and the list is dominated by youth. Never have young players been so essential to winning, whether it's 20-year-old Juan Soto helping lead the Nationals to last fall's shocking World Series title, or 23-year-old Cody Bellinger being named NL MVP.

Click here for Part 1: Players ranked 100th to 76th on our list.