Red Sox

One team has all the pieces to sign J.D. Martinez in free agency — the White Sox

One team has all the pieces to sign J.D. Martinez in free agency — the White Sox

If J.D. Martinez opts out of his Red Sox contract, as many of us expect, the natural question is where he'll land.

When I wrote about this six weeks ago, before we knew that ownership wanted to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, I assumed the answer would be Boston. Four years, $100 million, lock down your All-Star DH and middle-of-the-order weapon for the long haul.

Now that we understand John Henry's motivations to cut costs, though, a Martinez opt-out must be viewed as a farewell, and the Red Sox are probably rooting for it at this point, just to simplify their offseason math.

If that's the case, a closer look at Martinez's potential landing spots yields a clear logical favorite — the White Sox.

Keep in mind, this is a purely academic exercise. We don't know if the White Sox are prioritizing offense this winter, given the woeful state of their entire pitching staff beyond All-Star right-hander Lucas Giolito.

But if there's a team that checks the most boxes, it's Chicago. The White Sox are blessed with one of baseball's best farm systems, which means they'll be able to offset the cost of a big-ticket free agent with cheap young talent. They have a glaring need for a veteran slugger and leader to augment their impressive young core of batting champ Tim Anderson, former Red Sox farmhand Yoan Moncada, and slugging left fielder Eloy Jimenez. And as their failed 2018 pursuits of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado suggest, they're willing to drop big money on a free agent.

Add it all together, and a strong case can be made that Martinez will be calling the south side of Chicago home come April.

First, it's instructive to play the process-of-elimination game. The 32-year-old Martinez overcame back issues this season to hit .304 with 36 homers and 105 RBIs. Though technically able to play outfield (he made 38 appearances in 2019), it's hard to imagine a team signing him long-term to play him there full-time. Anything's possible, but let's cross the entire National League off his list.

When accounting for cost, contention window, and positional need, most of the American League disappears, too (as we laid out in August). We're basically left with the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Mariners.

Toronto expects to have $50 million to spend this winter, but president Mark Shapiro acknowledged the team's one glaring need in the Toronto Star.

"I think on a global level, it's moving from competing to winning," he told the paper. "Certainly, when you look at where the needs are on our team, it doesn't take a whole lot of in-depth analysis that starting pitching is probably our greatest opportunity to make those leaps."

Devoting half of their offseason budget to DH doesn't make a ton of sense, although a case can be made for Martinez mentoring a lineup that includes exciting youngsters Vladimir Guerrero Jr.,  Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. I guess we shouldn't discount the Jays entirely, but directing their resources towards starting pitching, especially without former ace Marcus Stroman, seems their most likely course of action.

With the Mariners, who knows? They could use upgrades all over the roster after winning just 68 games, and they've shocked us before, landing All-Stars Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano on long-term deals. But it's hard to find a motivation for them to add Martinez at this point in their rebuilding arc.

The White Sox, though, make sense. They could use a veteran to guide the aforementioned trio, and there's no debating Martinez's clubhouse impact on young stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts in Boston. An intense student of hitting, Martinez encouraged Betts to attack early in the count during an MVP 2018 (although he fell back into some bad habits this season) and helped convert Bogaerts to the cult of launch angle, resulting in an underrated 2018 and a breakout 2019.

If White Sox GM Rick Hahn is looking for someone who can show his youngsters the way, he won't find a better option than the bilingual Martinez, and that's before we even consider his biggest impact, which would be in the middle of Chicago's lineup.

During a lost 2017 without David Ortiz to anchor the order, virtually every young Red Sox hitter regressed. Once Martinez arrived in 2018, though, Betts, Bogaerts, and Andrew Benintendi felt free to do their thing without the pressure of carrying the offense. They considered themselves table-setters in service of Martinez, and even if it wasn't reflected in their respective WARs, to a man they labeled Martinez the most important bat in their lineup.

He could fill all those roles in Chicago, and at a fraction of the $250 million the White Sox reportedly offered Machado last winter. Martinez merely needs to beat three years and the roughly $62 million remaining on his deal to justify opting out, and Chicago could beat that total with any number of three- or four-year offers.

After seven straight losing seasons, Chicago believes it's a year or two away from contention. Baseball America rates the farm system as No. 3 in the game, Anderson and Moncada are budding superstars, and Giolito is a legit Cy Young contender, alongside hard-throwing right-handers Michael Kopech, who's due back from Tommy John, and Dylan Cease.

What the White Sox need are veterans to help them make the leap. That's exactly what Martinez did in Boston, and he could easily duplicate the feat in Chicago.

Perhaps his decision will be as easy changing socks.

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Ron Roenicke recalls losing World Series from most painful vantage point imaginable

Ron Roenicke recalls losing World Series from most painful vantage point imaginable

Ron Roenicke sprinted towards second base and into the face of a human tidal wave that stopped him dead in his tracks. The magical run of the 1984 Padres was over.

Roenicke may not be the first player that comes to mind on a San Diego team that included Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey, and Goose Gossage.

But he was the last Padre to run the bases, affording him the relatively rare vantage point of watching a World Series celebration unfold at ground zero.

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We remember final outs of various Fall Classics for the reactions of the pitcher and catcher, whether it's Jesse Orosco tossing his glove joyously in 1986 or Jason Varitek jumping into the arms of Keith Foulke in 2004.

But what about the losing players, the ones who helplessly watch their dreams go up in smoke while engulfed in delirious bedlam? Roenicke knows that feeling, and he won't soon forget it.

He was on first base in Tiger Stadium when Tony Gwynn flied to left to complete Detroit's 8-4 win in 1984's clinching Game 5.

Tabbed to pinch run for fellow future manager Bruce Bochy, Roenicke raced halfway to second base before he saw not only the Tigers leaping from their dugout, but fans pouring onto the field to celebrate the city's first World Series title since 1968.

"I remember on the pop-up taking off running and then just seeing this mass of people coming on the field, and all I could think about was just get off the field and get in the dugout and try to be safe," Roenicke said earlier this offseason. "You're used to everything being in control on a baseball field and when the stands empty and it's chaos, it's a weird feeling like, 'What's going on?'"

Roenicke was lucky to be on the field at all. He opened the 1984 season without a team after being cut by the Mariners in spring training. He signed with the Padres on April 5 and spent most of the season at Triple A. Summoned on Sept. 1, he hit .300 in 12 games and figured his season was over, watching the Padres shock the Cubs in the NLCS, aided largely by Garvey's walk-off homer in Game 4.

Outfielder Kevin McReynolds injured his wrist during that series, however, opening a World Series roster spot. It went to Roenicke, a 28-year-old who had found himself in the opposite position just three years earlier, when an ankle sprain with a week to go cost him his job as the Dodgers' starting center fielder and sidelined him for the entire championship run.

"I jumped for the first base bag and blew up an ankle," Roenicke recalled. "I was still kind of involved in that one on the sidelines in the locker room and watching what was going on, but I wasn't on the field. Playing in '84, it meant something. You want to feel like you're involved and you're a piece of something."

Broadcaster Vin Scully recognized what that small moment meant for Roenicke, noting the juxtaposition with '81 and telling viewers, "So you see, fate has a way of evening up, I guess."

By the time Roenicke entered with one out, the Padres trailed 8-4 against a 104-win Tigers club that might've been the team of the decade. The unheralded Padres had already shocked the Cubs after losing the first two games of the NLCS, though, and never counted themselves out.

"We had a good team," Roenicke said. "I don't think anybody expected us to get through the Cubs. Sometimes when you're on a team that may not feel like the best team, but you win, it seems like you always think that something's going to happen, something good is going to happen."

Not this time. Alan Wiggins fouled to catcher Lance Parrish against MVP and Cy Young Award winner Willie Hernandez before Gwynn lined softly to left, opening the floodgates and leaving players on both sides fearing for their safety. Even Kirk Gibson, basically Mr. Tiger, had to throw fans off of him to reach the dugout.

"They won, so at least everyone's coming on the field happy," Roenicke said. "Then it got crazy on the bus. It was a mess. We showered up and we were waiting for escorts to the airport and they were having trouble.

There's a police car on fire, there's a cab that pulls up and the people are grabbing it and they end up taking the driver out and flipping the cab car over. It was pretty dangerous. And then the mounted police came in and just cleared the streets. And then our escort got to us and we got out of there.

Roenicke wouldn't reach a World Series again as a player, retiring in 1988 after an itinerant eight-year career. He added a ring as Angels third base coach in 2002, and another two years ago with the Red Sox as Alex Cora's bench coach.

In both cases, he joined the celebration on the field, which he much preferred to his experience in 1984.

Red Sox hold touching Memorial Day tribute at Fenway Park

Red Sox hold touching Memorial Day tribute at Fenway Park

The Boston Red Sox on Monday paid tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America.

At a nearly-empty Fenway Park, the Red Sox honored Memorial Day by dropping the American flag over the Green Monster. Robert Bean, a Medford, Mass., native and retired member of the United States Marine Corps and National Guard, performed “Taps” to top off the moving tribute.

See more from the ceremony below:


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Boston was supposed to host the Kansas City Royals for a Memorial Day matchup. Unfortunately, we were unable to be treated to baseball on the holiday, but credit to the Red Sox for going on with their tribute to our fallen heroes.