Red Sox

Red Sox

It makes little sense, given their needs. But is a door cracking for the Yankees to take a run at J.D. Martinez?

If so, what's already projecting to be a painful Red Sox offseason could end up becoming catastrophic.

In the old days, the marriage would've made complete sense. The Yankees can never boast enough sluggers, and adding Martinez would serve the dual purpose of also weakening their rivals.

The only problem is, the Yankees have practiced fiscal responsibility under the stewardship of Hal Steinbrenner, who's nowhere near as reactionary as his legendary father. The Yankees haven't led the league in payroll since 2013, but cutting costs hasn't stopped them from topping 100 wins for two straight years. Their opening day payroll of $167 million in 2018 ranked seventh in MLB, and even as it rebounded to $206 million this year, still ranked only third.

After an American League Championship Series loss to the Astros that saw their lack of starting pitching badly exposed, the Yankees are expected to be in the market for multiple starters. With CC Sabathia retiring, Masahiro Tanaka undergoing elbow surgery, and Luis Severino limited to only three starts, the Yankees can't afford another season of openers, James Paxton, and Domingo German. They should be directing their considerable resources at starters. They'll undoubtedly make a run at Astros ace Gerrit Cole.

But then came Thursday's news that center fielder Aaron Hicks needs Tommy John surgery that will sideline him for eight to 10 months. With 36-year-old one-dimensional DH Edwin Encarnacion coming off a putrid ALCS (1 for 18, 11 Ks), New York could easily decline his $20 million option.

 

That creates two openings in New York's crowded outfield/DH mix, and suddenly Martinez doesn't look so far-fetched.
 
If the Yankees wanted to build a devastating lineup, they could find the money for Martinez while maintaining the flexibility to add a frontline starter. Sabathia's retirement clears $8 million off the books, and they could save another $50 million by declining Encarnacion's option and bidding adieu to free agents Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and Dellin Betances.

The risk in signing Martinez is a considerable one, since $300 million man Giancarlo Stanton was limited to only 18 games all season and is looking more and more like a full-time DH. Similarly, caveat emptor to any club looking to outfit Martinez with a glove, given his back issues in 2019.

But if the Yankees are comfortable with the two sluggers splitting left field and DH, imagine how potent New York's lineup would look with Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Martinez, Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, and Gio Urshela.

Martinez has proven himself to be a difference-maker over two seasons with the Red Sox, with a pair of All-Star berths and a near Triple Crown. Over the last three years, he has averaged 41 homers and 113 RBIs while hitting .313 with a 1.007 OPS. That's superstar production, and given the dearth of teams willing or able to extend major resources to a DH, he could end up being a bargain on a three- or four-year deal.

It's the kind of move the Yankees used to make with regularity before embarking on this era of relative austerity. Maybe Martinez will tempt them to strike again, which would be a disaster for Boston.

Where Martinez would rank among MLB's top free agents>>>>>

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