Red Sox

It's time for J.D. Martinez to decide his opt-out, and the direction of the Red Sox offseason with it

It's time for J.D. Martinez to decide his opt-out, and the direction of the Red Sox offseason with it

J.D.-Day has arrived for the Red Sox.

Slugger J.D. Martinez has until 11:59 p.m. ET Monday to opt out of the final three years and $62.5 million remaining on his contract and become a free agent. If he declines, he'll remain in Boston for at least another year and make $23.75 million in 2020.

The Red Sox and new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom cannot begin to plan for their offseason until Martinez makes his decision, which will significantly impact their payroll. Martinez is the first and in many ways most important domino that must fall, and what happens next could spider in countless directions. So let's break it down.

If Martinez opts in, the offense will be guaranteed a centerpiece slugger who can join Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in one of the most potent 2-3-4 combos in baseball. Martinez has hit .317 and averaged 40 homers and 118 RBIs in his two years with the Red Sox. He's also comfortable being the focal point of opposing pitching staffs, providing the same type of presence as future Hall of Famer David Ortiz.

The problem with Martinez staying is it greatly increases the likelihood that defending MVP Mookie Betts will be shipped out. Betts, who on Sunday won his fourth straight Gold Glove, is entering the final year of his contract and will make close to $30 million in arbitration.

If the Red Sox are serious about dropping below the $208 million luxury tax threshold — sorry if we're skeptical about their wish-not-a-mandate spin — then that task becomes borderline impossible with Betts and Martinez on the roster, barring a trade of a starting pitcher.

In Betts, Martinez, David Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi alone, the Red Sox will have roughly $130 million committed to just five players. Add Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, and we're talking $165 million for seven players, one of whom is effectively retired.

An argument can be made that the Red Sox can't afford Martinez or Betts if they want to drop below $208 million. So if the former stays, it sure feels like the latter is gone.

If Martinez opts out of his deal, a giant hole just opened in the middle of the lineup that won't be fully appreciated until he's gone. Remember 2017 when virtually every young hitter took a giant step back in the team's first season without Ortiz? Bogaerts hit 10 homers. Andrew Benintendi posted a .776 OPS. Betts followed an MVP runner-up campaign by hitting just .264. That's the potential future the Red Sox risk returning to without Martinez locking down the heart of the order.

While there's always a chance he examines the market and strikes a deal to return to Boston, it's telling that the Red Sox haven't made him an offer beyond what's left on his contract. In different circumstances, with more payroll flexibility, it would be easy to envision the Red Sox ripping up the final three years of his deal and either bumping his salary to $25 million annually or giving him a fourth season.

In all likelihood, if Martinez opts out, that will put the Red Sox in the market for a new cleanup hitter, because there isn't one on the roster. Maybe it's veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who just topped 30 home runs for the eighth straight season, but didn't have his option picked up by the Yankees. Maybe it's a scrap heap selection who surprises, as routinely occurred in Tampa under Bloom. Whomever it is will almost certainly be a downgrade.

Martinez's absence would increase the odds of keeping Betts, however, since Martinez's money could be used to absorb one more year of Mookie. It doesn't change the fundamental issue of whether the team can afford Betts long-term, but it at least creates the possibility of making one final run with the star right fielder.

None of these dominoes can fall until Martinez makes a decision, however, and that day has finally arrived.

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Report: Former Red Sox infielder Eduardo Nunez to join Mets as non-roster invite to spring training

Report: Former Red Sox infielder Eduardo Nunez to join Mets as non-roster invite to spring training

Midway through the 2019 MLB season, the struggling Boston Red Sox made an attempt to shake things up on their bench and get them back into the playoff race. That decision involved designating Eduardo Nunez for assignment.

Nunez spent parts of three seasons with the Red Sox after he was acquired at the 2017 MLB trade deadline. Nunez quickly endeared himself to Boston fans by batting .321 and smashing eight homers in 38 games with the team.

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But after his first season, Nunez's production tailed off. He was still productive during the team's 2018 World Series run, though he was hampered by a knee injury, before things bottomed out in 2019. He was hitting just .228 at the time of his release and his defensive range was declining because of his balky knee.

Now, after remaining out of MLB work for almost half a year, it looks like Nunez is getting one more shot at sticking around in the MLB.

According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the New York Mets have invited Nunez to join them as a non-roster invite at spring training in 2020. 

It may be tough for Nunez to ultimately win a spot with the Mets, who also have former Red Sox shortstop/third baseman Jed Lowrie on the team. But he is going to be on a minor league deal as a result of this signing.

And if injuries strike and Nunez proves himself, perhaps he could eventually earn a roster spot.

We'll soon see what happens with Nunez, but it is nice to see the 32-year-old get another chance to play at the MLB level, even if it is just a spring training invite.

Dodgers president on Red Sox, Astros sign-stealing: 'I'd like to have answers'

Dodgers president on Red Sox, Astros sign-stealing: 'I'd like to have answers'

Los Angeles Dodgers team president Stan Kasten, in his first public comments on the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked baseball, lamented that he still has many unanswered questions after Major League Baseball's punishment of the Houston Astros. 

Kasten noted that the investigation isn't over, with MLB continuing to look into the Red Sox' alleged sign-stealing using video - a system that Alex Cora reportedly brought to Boston as manager after serving as Astros bench coach.

"This investigation isn't over," Kasten said, via Evan Drellich of The Athletic, who along with colleague Ken Rosenthal broke the stories detailing the Astros' and Red Sox' schemes.  "I’d like to have answers to many questions about what happened, by whom and when."

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Kasten saw his Dodgers lose World Series in 2017 to Houston and 2018 to Boston, only to have those two championships called into question after MLB's report on the Astros' tactics led to the firing of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Cora also parted ways with the Red Sox amid the controversy and Carlos Beltran, a player on the '17 Astros involved in the scheme, was fired just months after being named manager of the New York Mets.  

Houston was also fined $5 million and docked draft picks. The Red Sox could face similar penalties.

Here are Kasten's full comments, via Drellich:

Earlier this week, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred shot down suggestions that the World Series titles could be stripped from the Astros and Red Sox, a request made by, among others, the L.A. City Council. 

Speaking specifically about losing to the Astros in the 2017 Series, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, at the team's Fan Fest on Saturday, questioned the legitimacy of Houston's title.  

"We know how hard it is to win a World Series," Turner said. "We know that it's something you really have to earn, and with the commissioner's report and the evidence and what they had, it's hard to feel like they earned it and they earned the right to be called champions."