Let the J.D. Martinez countdown begin.
With the World Series officially over, the Red Sox DH now has five days to decide if he'll opt out of the final three years of his contract and become a free agent.
Because the Red Sox have no plans at the moment to offer him anything more than the $62.5 million remaining on his deal, he's expected to opt-out and see what the market might bear.
The question he and agent Scott Boras must ask, though, is what kind of interest he'll realistically generate. Luckily for them, we're here to help!
Thanks to Martinez's unique set of skills (and weaknesses), narrowing the field is easier than you might think.
For one, let's just throw out the entire National League. Martinez can play the outfield in a pinch, but it's hard to imagine anyone committing three or four years of big money for him to play there every day at age 32, with some back troubles in 2019.
That leaves the American League. He's as good a DH as the game has seen since David Ortiz, and even in an era when teams seem disinclined to devote major resources to the position, Martinez's impact on an offense means he'll have suitors. It just probably won't be as many as he deserves.
Playing the process-of-elimination game in the AL doesn't leave too many teams standing.
First off, there's money. Martinez's contractual demands -- three years and $75 million feels like the floor -- should take half of the league out of contention.
That means the Rays, Indians, Tigers, Royals, and A's. I'd add the Orioles to the list, because what's the point? And if the Red Sox are intent on cutting costs to drop below $208 million, then we should put them here, too, as ludicrous as that sounds.
Next up: teams with DHs. The Twins just picked up Nelson Cruz's option, so they're out. Same goes for the Angels (Shohei Otani) and Astros (Yordan Alvarez). Unless the Rangers can find a taker for Shin-Soo Choo's $21 million salary, then they lack an opening, too.
I'd argue that the Yankees should be on this list, thanks to uncertainty over Giancarlo Stanton's ability to stay healthy, as well as no shortage of internal candidates to share at-bats: Gary Sanchez, Mike Tauchman, etc. . . . The Yankees so desperately need starting pitching, it's hard to imagine they'd make Martinez a priority, but the Red Sox are nonetheless uneasy that New York could end up being stealth bidders to create a monster offense.
So who's left? The Blue Jays, White Sox, and Mariners.
The Blue Jays intend to spend this offseason, but after trading ace Marcus Stroman to the Mets, they're desperate for pitching. They can't be entirely discounted, though, because their young core of children of former big leaguers -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio -- could use not just a mentor, but an alpha in the middle of the lineup to let them develop without carrying the load.
Martinez would be that guy, but the Jays won't win anything without more pitching. That's where their resources will likely be directed.
The Mariners have signed massive free-agent deals before, be it Adrian Beltre or Robinson Cano. They also reportedly tried to acquire Martinez from the Tigers in 2016, so there's a history of interest. But it's hard to see how Martinez, who turned 32 in August, fits the long-term plans of a team that just won 68 games and isn't close to contention.
That leaves one team, and it's the most intriguing of the bunch: the White Sox.
Like the Jays, Chicago boasts a promising young core built around AL batting champ Tim Anderson, former Red Sox farmhand Yoan Moncada, and slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez. Martinez could fill the mentor/alpha role described above.
Like the Mariners, the White Sox have shown an occasional willingness to spend in free agency. Just last year, they made a legitimate run at Manny Machado before he signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres.
The White Sox are close, thanks to one of baseball's best farm systems. Martinez's arrival would dovetail nicely with the integration of top prospects like outfielder Luis Robert and second baseman (and Dustin Pedroia clone) Nick Madrigal.
Like the Yankees, Chicago should probably be focusing its resources on pitching, but that's going to be a competitive market. The Martinez Sweepstakes, by contrast, could end up being a much quieter affair, which makes the White Sox, at least from this standpoint, the best fit to land him in free agency.
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