Red Sox

J.D. Martinez is officially on the clock, and here's where he could end up if he opts out

J.D. Martinez is officially on the clock, and here's where he could end up if he opts out

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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MLB Rumors: Here's where investigation into 2018 Red Sox stands

MLB Rumors: Here's where investigation into 2018 Red Sox stands

Boston Red Sox fans may have to reserve judgment for quite some time.

Major League Baseball may take "a while" to determine punishment for the Red Sox as it continues to investigate the 2018 team, The Athletic's Peter Gammons reported Friday morning.

Gammons added the league hasn't even interviewed former Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whom the club parted ways with Tuesday.

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MLB is investigating the Red Sox for allegedly using a video replay room to illegally relay signs to hitters during the 2018 regular season.

The league announced the investigation back on Jan. 7, but seemingly prioritized its discipline of the 2017 Houston Astros, who were severely punished Monday for their own illegal sign-stealing operation.

This timeline obviously puts the manager-less Red Sox in a tough spot. Boston has several intriguing internal candidates who could replace Cora, but may want to wait until MLB completes its investigation in case any of those candidates are punished.

If the Red Sox pursue an external candidate, they'll have to compete with the Astros and New York Mets on a ticking clock, as pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month.

According to reports, widespread punishments could be a possibility. Cora is expected to be suspended at least one year for his role in both Houston and Boston's sign-stealing operations, while Gary Tanguay reported Thursday on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition that Red Sox principal owner John Henry fears the franchise may be stripped of its 2018 World Series title.

The Red Sox will remain in a holding pattern until MLB sorts this out ... and may have to scramble to deal with the fallout.

Patriots provided one blueprint for handling Alex Cora, but Red Sox ignored it

Patriots provided one blueprint for handling Alex Cora, but Red Sox ignored it

Let us imagine, for a moment, a scenario.

It's 2007, and the Patriots have just been nailed for stealing opposing signals despite an explicit league directive banning the practice. With national reporters swarming Foxboro like the Zerg, owner Robert Kraft assesses the damage to his brand, the importance of integrity to his family, and makes a heart-rending decision -- he must fire Bill Belichick.

Who can blame him? Belichick broke the rules and brought shame to the organization. Not even a pile of Lombardi Trophies justifies the long-term damage to the team's reputation. And so with vampires at his gate demanding blood, Kraft gives it to them and sacrifices his Hall of Fame coach.

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We now know two things, of course. One is that Kraft did not fire Belichick. The other is that it was inarguably the right decision, one that continues to pay dividends more than a decade later. While there's not much the Patriots can do about taunts that they're cheaters, there's also little doubt that they're the NFL's greatest dynasty.

There's a reason Belichick guest-hosted the NFL Network's series on the league's top 100 players, and there's a reason why when all is said and done, the dominant impression of this 20-year run won't be Spygate or Deflategate, but the unprecedented, record-breaking partnership between Belichick and Tom Brady.

None of that happens if Kraft pulls the plug in 2007. But he stood his ground despite intense public pressure, and has since reaped the rewards.

This alternate history, this road not taken, feels relevant today, given a very different choice made by Red Sox ownership in response to a remarkably similar scandal.

On Tuesday, the club and manager Alex Cora "mutually agreed to part ways," which is corporate jargon for, "we have unilaterally decided to part ways." A bombshell MLB report had just fingered Cora as the mastermind of a sign-stealing scheme in Houston involving replay cameras, dugout monitors, and one resonant trash can.

The Red Sox digested this report for a day before announcing Cora's departure. They based their decision, according to ownership, solely on his actions in Houston and what was laid out in the report. It doubtlessly didn't help his cause that he's facing a lengthy suspension, probably at least a year, and maybe longer.

It's hard to criticize the Red Sox for acting decisively; Cora's actions embarrassed the organization. And far be it from me to suggest that anyone, in any sport, belongs in the same sentence as Belichick.

But I'm coming to believe the Red Sox should've stood by their man à la the Patriots, especially since the behavior they found so egregious occurred while he worked as a subordinate for another franchise.

Add their strangely smug confidence that the commissioner's investigation into their own championship season of 2018 will exonerate them (and therefore Cora, too, to a degree), and a case can be made that they fired him out of expediency at the expense of their long-term interests.

"They had no choice!" many have argued. And to that I say, why?

I don't buy for a second that Cora had lost his clubhouse. My guess is the players were well aware of his actions in Houston -- he didn't try to hide his admiration for co-conspirator Carlos Beltran and his ability to decipher signs by any means possible. Whatever Cora oversaw in Boston, it doesn't sound like there was much clubhouse dissent.

It's hard to overstate Cora's importance to the organization. He united disparate departments and communities like no one before him. He's the rare ex-player who embraces and understands new-school analytics. He's bilingual, which allows him to bridge gaps in a melting-pot clubhouse.

I've had half a dozen people at all levels of the organization tell me how much he'll be missed, all with a similar story -- he made everyone feel important, even the junior nobodies. He spent some of his last hours as a Red Sox employee consulting with player development about the farm system. He is personable, passionate, and driven, and he had a hand in everything.

Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts didn't waste words when asked what kind of manager the Red Sox should hire next.

"Someone like him," he said.

As scandalous and raw as this feels now, time has a way of smoothing edges and soothing nerves. A year from now, after a lengthy contrition tour, Cora might've been able to resume his duties. We'll never know if he could've survived the fallout, because the Red Sox never gave him the chance.

That's certainly their right, but imagine how different the Patriots would look today if they had reached the same conclusion more than a decade ago.