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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Were 2018 Red Sox best team of the decade? MLB.com reveals its No. 1

Were 2018 Red Sox best team of the decade? MLB.com reveals its No. 1

It might be hard to believe, but another decade in sports will close in just over a month.

We've seen many few epic games, teams and seasons in Major League Baseball over the last 10 years, including the Chicago Cubs ending a 108-year World Series drought with a championship in 2016.

Which team is the sport's best from this decade? There are plenty of worthy contenders for the top spot, including that heroic Cubs squad, but MLB.com's ranking has the 2018 Boston Red Sox at No. 1.

Here's Will Leitch's explanation for selecting the Red Sox as the team of the decade:

The 2018 Red Sox were so dominant you barely even noticed how dominant they were. They breezed through the American League East -- flying past a 100-win Yankees team like it was nothing -- and then floored it through the postseason, losing only three games in blasting past the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers on their way to a World Series championship. The Red Sox’s 108 wins were the most since the Mariners won 116 games in 2001, but Boston finished it off with a title. This is probably the greatest Red Sox team of all time … and we shouldn’t let what happened the next season make us lose sight of that.

The 2018 Red Sox were an absolute a juggernaut, especially offensively. Boston ranked No. 1 among all MLB teams in runs scored, hits, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Star outfielder Mookie Betts won American League MVP -- the Red Sox's first winner of that award since Dustin Pedroia in 2007. Let's not forget the Sox beat three 100-win teams in the postseason to capture the franchise's fourth World Series championship since 2000.

You might be asking where the 2013 Red Sox rank among the decade's best. Leitch listed them at No. 4, which is pretty fair. 

The Red Sox are off to a brilliant start this century with two championships in both the 2000s and 2010s. Therefore, any less success in the 2020s surely will be viewed as a disappointment.

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Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

In a disappointing season for the Boston Red Sox, the productive years of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers did warrant some MVP recognition.

Bogaerts finished fifth in the American League MVP voting (The Angels' Mike Trout was your winner for the third time in six years), Betts, who won the award a year ago, was eighth and Devers 12th in the voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Bogaerts hit .309 with 33 homers, 52 doubles and 117 RBI; Devers .311, 32 HR, 54 doubles and 115 RBI. They became the first teammates to ever reach the 30-homer/50-doubles mark in the same season. The numbers for Betts (.295, 30 HR, 80 RBI), the subject of trade rumors this offseason, were considered by many to be a down year for him.

The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger was voted National League MVP.

Justin Long, the Sox Senior Manager of Media Relations and Baseball Information, points out that having three players in the top 12 is the best showing for the Red Sox since 2011:    

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