Red Sox

J.D. Martinez' contract needs to be addressed, because he remains most important player in Red Sox lineup

J.D. Martinez' contract needs to be addressed, because he remains most important player in Red Sox lineup

BOSTON -- The end came swiftly for David Ortiz. One minute he exhorted the crowd late in a do-or-die Game 3 of the 2016 American League Division Series, and the next he waved a tearful farewell from the mound.

When Ortiz removed his jersey for the final time, the impact crater threatened to swallow the entire offense. Without Ortiz to anchor them, the 2017 Red Sox found themselves adrift. Mookie Betts downgraded from MVP runner-up to borderline All-Star. Xander Bogaerts regressed. Andrew Benintendi regressed. Jackie Bradley Jr. regressed.

When the season ended, manager John Farrell lost his job, in part because he couldn't get the most out of his young players. But the reality is the lineup lacked the star around which everyone else orbited.

Enter J.D. Martinez.

Linked to the Red Sox for the entire 2018 offseason, the slugger didn't sign until spring training. He wasted no time solidifying the middle of the lineup, posting numbers typically associated with players named Ruth, Williams, and Mantle. His .330-43-130 breakthrough could've won the Triple Crown in a dozen different seasons, and Red Sox hitters credited him with taking the pressure off everyone else.

The result? One hundred and eight wins and another championship.

"J.D. is something different," Bogaerts said. "Hitting behind him most of the time, throughout my career, whenever he's locked in on that ball, that ball sounds pretty loud. You've got to be ready to hit when you're on deck because he might swing at the first pitch. That's one thing I learned with him, especially when he's going good. He's hacking on the first pitch and that ball comes off real loud."

A year later, Martinez's importance cannot be overstated, particularly in light of Ortiz's absence. Big Papi represented a generational talent while leading the Red Sox to three titles. Replacing him seemed like a task measured in years, if not decades. And yet it took the Red Sox only one season to find Martinez.

Now, they're in danger of losing him, which is a story that deserves more attention. With this past offseason's focus on impending free agents Betts, Bogaerts, and ace Chris Sale, Martinez flew under the radar. The Red Sox managed to ink Bogaerts and Sale to extensions, and they'd love to do the same with Betts, who seems content to reach free agency and then load a fleet of Brinks trucks.

But what about Martinez? He can opt out of his contract this fall, and even in baseball's absurdly depressed market, interest should be robust in a slugger who may very well be on his way to a third consecutive 40-homer season.

"It's amazing what he does on a nightly basis," noted manager Alex Cora.

Conversations about the most important members of the Red Sox generally start with Betts and end with Sale, but don't let Martinez's lack of a regular defensive position fool you. He is the most important player in the lineup, and the Red Sox can ill afford to lose him.

In the 6-5 win over the Rockies on Wednesday night, Martinez blasted his fourth home run in three games while going 2-for-4 with a walk. After a slow start from a power perspective, he has socked five home runs in the past nine days.

He's hitting .321 with nine homers, 28 RBI, and a .940 OPS. His numbers are slightly down from where he was on this date a year ago -- .344-11-34-1.024 -- but he's heating up.

"The ball's going over the fence now. That's always better," Martinez said. "That's ideal. It was frustrating early on in the season, but it's going now. I'm hoping to ride it as long as I can."

Truth be told, Martinez put up quality at-bats in the early going, too, but with buckets of loud outs to show for it.

"We were playing Toronto, I hit a couple of balls that day," Martinez said with a sigh. "And then Baltimore, I hit a couple of balls, and I was just like, 'This sucks.' "

Now, he's rolling and providing the same kind of lineup security as Ortiz in his prime.

"I really don't look at myself like that," Martinez said. "I try to go out there every day and be an example to everyone in here and just try to be an example on the field -- take really, really tough at-bats, not give away at-bats, not give away outs, make the pitchers work for every out, every pitch. That's something I take pride in."

So, about that five-year, $110 million contract. Martinez will earn $23.75 million this year and next, which is a bargain for a 40-homer slugger who also hits for average. He can opt out after either season, or play for $19.35 million each in 2021 and 2022.

He makes no secret of his desire to stay in Boston, and while his camp remains open to negotiating an extension during the season, the ball is in the court of the Red Sox, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski prefers to hold contract talks in the offseason.

Martinez is clearly worth more than he's earning now, and at 31, he could have five or more productive seasons in him at DH. Ortiz excelled into his 40s, after all, and look at Minnesota's Nelson Cruz, still punishing fastballs at 38, with five All-Star berths since 2013.

Martinez isn't sweating it. The last time he hit free agency, he had posted .303-45-104 numbers following a monstrous second half with the 2017 Diamondbacks. Just as he doesn't feel pressure to be Ortiz, he's not obsessing over his contract, either.

"It was like that the year I was a free agent," he said. "All I can do is control my preparation and what I do every day. I can't control the results. I wish I could. I wish I could come in and say, 'Hey, I'm getting two hits today,' and it just happens. All I can do is control my preparation, find ways to hit the ball hard, and the rest is up to the big guy."

With that, Martinez pointed to the ceiling in recognition of the Almighty. Back down here on earth, there's one big man as far as teammates are concerned, and he wears No. 28. The Red Sox would be wise to retain him.

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Mitch Moreland 'running out of stuff to say' about Rafael Devers

Mitch Moreland 'running out of stuff to say' about Rafael Devers

On Sunday afternoon, the Boston Red Sox were able to fight back to earn a win over the Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox were down 6-0, but they scored 13 answered runs to overtake the woeful Orioles en route to their fifth straight win.

In the contest, the Red Sox offense was powered by Rafael Devers. The 22-year-old went 4-for-5 in the game with a homer and four RBIs and made history. He became only the second Red Sox player to total 100-plus RBIs and 100-plus runs in a season at age 23 or younger. The only other player to do that was Ted Williams, who did it twice.

Devers is currently on a hot streak for the Sox, batting .652 with 3 homers, 7 doubles, and 11 RBIs over the course of his past five games. He also leads the league in hits, RBIs, and doubles as of this writing. And his consistently solid performance has earned endless praise from his coaches and teammates.

"I’m running out of stuff to say about him," first baseman Mitch Moreland said, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. "It seems like a bad day for him is 2 for 4 with a double. He’s been incredible."

Meanwhile, manager Alex Cora praised Devers for his consistency and ability to string together quality at-bats.

"It seems like everything that is in the zone he’s hitting hard," Cora said, per Abraham. "The quality of the at-bats are great. He keeps working. He’s not taking anything for granted."

Devers' red-hot performance has coincided with the Red Sox' recent winning streak, so the team will hope that he can continue to stay hot. And if he can, that could do a lot to help the team succeed with their pitching staff currently weakened by injuries.

Chris Sale to visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday>>>

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Chris Sale will visit with Dr. James Andrews on Monday

Chris Sale will visit with Dr. James Andrews on Monday

Chris Sale is officially getting ready for a visit with Dr. James Andrews.

According to Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the team's ace will be heading down to Florida to meet with the renowned surgeon on Monday. At that point in time, Sale and Dr. Andrews will discuss options for treatment on his sore elbow.

"[Sale] just wants to make sure he has all the facts," Cora said of the visit, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. "He wants to see where we’re at with it and all the opinions."

Sale, who is in the midst of a career-worst season that has seen him log a 6-11 record and 4.40 ERA. He was placed on the 10-day IL on Saturday with left elbow inflammation and the visit with Dr. Andrews has raised some concerns about the potential for Tommy John surgery. We'll know more about the situation after Sale's visit on Monday.

After losing Sale, Cora stated that the team has "got to keep going" without Sale in the rotation. They got off to a good start by beating the Baltimore Orioles in the past two contests, but the bigger test for them will be how they fare in the upcoming week against the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres.

TOMASE: Sale's injury start of potential Red Sox catastrophe>>>

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