If baseball adopts a universal designated hitter in 2020, say goodbye to J.D. Martinez.
The New York Post's Joel Sherman reported on Sunday that the National League may employ a DH this year to save wear and tear on pitchers during a shortened season, and once that door opens, it's hard to imagine the Senior Circuit going back.
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A full-time DH in the NL would make Martinez one of the most desirable commodities in free agency just a year after he didn't even bother opting out of his Red Sox contract because he knew there'd be no suitors.
Martinez can opt out of his five-year, $110 million contract again this offseason, and part of his calculus in remaining with the Red Sox was the possibility that the NL would add the DH for 2021, thereby doubling his market.
In reality, his market will more than double, because no NL team currently fields a DH, which means they'll all be starting from scratch. In the American League, Martinez knew that teams like the Twins (Nelson Cruz), Angels (Shohei Ohtani), and Astros (Yordan Alvarez), to name three, had no use for his services. His market this winter was effectively the White Sox, and they signed Edwin Encarnacion.
Now he'll be able to add the Dodgers, Cubs, Braves, Nationals, Phillies — you name the deep-pocketed team, and Martinez is a potential fit.
It's ludicrous that he couldn't find a market this season. The 32-year-old has made consecutive All-Star teams while averaging 40 homers and 118 RBIs with the Red Sox. He's hitting .317 with a .985 OPS in that span.
Beyond the numbers, he's also a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the mold of David Ortiz, someone who can handle the responsibility of being the focus of rival gameplans before every series. Players from Xander Bogaerts to Mookie Betts to Andrew Benintendi have made no secret of Martinez's impact on the lineup. Even a superstar like Betts considered himself a supporting player setting the table for the slugging DH.
Add Martinez's slavish devotion to video and the science of hitting — it's no coincidence that Bogaerts joined the launch-angle revolution with All-Star results once Martinez joined the team — and you have a player who can impact an offense both on and off the field.
He turns 33 in August, but the continued production of players like the 39-year-old Cruz and the 37-year-old Encarnacion suggests that a DH can remain viable well into his 30s.
We have no idea what free agency will look like in a post-COVID world, but this fall would be a good time for Martinez to hit the market from a purely financial standpoint. He'll make $23.75 million before his salaries drop to $19.35 million in 2021 and 2022.
He's easily a $20 million-a-year player in a robust market, and it's hard to imagine a better scenario for his future than half of the teams in baseball suddenly realizing they're desperate for a player just like him.