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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MLB win totals 2020: Red Sox among five teams that will go under projection

MLB win totals 2020: Red Sox among five teams that will go under projection

With spring training workouts underway, it's time to peer into our Major League Baseball crystal ball for 2020.

Boston Red Sox fans may not like what they see.

Westgate Superbook updated its projected win totals for all 30 clubs last Monday after the Red Sox (finally) traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

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Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom admitted this trade makes his team worse in 2020, and Westgate's win totals reflect that: Boston now is projected to win 85.5 games, down from 87.5 prior to the Betts deal.

But can the Red Sox even reach that lowered bar? And which other teams are trending down, as well? Below are Westgate's win totals for five MLB teams, and why we're taking the UNDER on each total.

Boston Red Sox: UNDER 85.5

The Red Sox won 84 games last season with Betts and Price on the roster. Pitching was the primary source of their struggles, and they've done nothing to alleviate those concerns after losing Price and Rick Porcello, who combined to make 54 starts last season. The rotation will be thin even if Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi all stay healthy. If anyone gets hurt, we could be in for some long games at Fenway Park -- because Boston's 18th-ranked bullpen from 2019 remains virtually unchanged, as well.

Tampa Bay Rays: UNDER 89.5

As usual, the Rays project to be a Wild Card contender with strong pitching and a decent lineup of scrappy overachievers. But there's a lot riding on the health of top arms Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who both dealt with arm injuries last season. If those issues crop up in 2020, Tampa Bay could have difficulty competing against the Red Sox and loaded New York Yankees in the AL East.

Washington Nationals: UNDER 90.5

I'm buying into the World Series hangover storyline, especially for a Nationals team playing in a sneaky competitive National League East, where the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets all are projected to win north of 85 games. Losing Anthony Rendon also doesn't help Washington's cause. The defending champs finish just over .500 while battling the Mets and Phillies for a Wild Card spot.

Texas Rangers: UNDER 79.5

Corey Kluber's addition helped boost Texas' win total, but the 33-year-old threw just 35 2/3 innings last season and isn't a sure bet to return to All-Star form. I'm also not convinced 34-year-old Todd Frazier will improve an offense that ranked 17th in the majors in batting average (.248) last season. Texas will make some early-season noise before fading to the middle of the AL pack.

Pittsburgh Pirates: UNDER 69.5

Pittsburgh's hire of ex-Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington signals a full-on rebuild for a club that won 69 games last season. There's little talent on this roster outside slugger Josh Bell and pitchers Chris Archer and Jamie Musgrove, and there's a very good chance the Pirates finish in the NL cellar.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox nearing deal with Jonathan Lucroy to boost catcher depth

MLB Rumors: Red Sox nearing deal with Jonathan Lucroy to boost catcher depth

The Boston Red Sox need catcher depth, and they're reportedly getting some in a former All-Star.

The Red Sox are "close" to a deal with free-agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Mass Live's Chris Cotillo reported Tuesday morning.

Lucroy is expected to back up starter Christian Vazquez and reserve Kevin Plawecki and could sign a minor-league deal with Boston, per Cotillo.

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The 33-year-old comes with an impressive pedigree: He's a two-time All-Star with 10 major league seasons under his belt who boasts a .274 career batting average. He tallied 24 home runs and 81 RBIs during an impressive 2016 campaign and represented the United States at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

He spent his first six-plus seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and played five years under Ron Roenicke, who was just named Boston's interim manager.

Lucroy has bounced between five teams over the last four seasons, however. He split time between the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs in 2019 and hit .232 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs over 101 games.

The veteran catcher still would be a decent signing as a backup, joining Kevin Pillar as Chaim Bloom's latest depth add in the wake of last week's Mookie Betts/David Price blockbuster.

That deal also netted Los Angeles Dodgers catcher prospect Connor Wong, who likely will begin the year in Double-A Portland.