Scott Boras

Why Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are likely to test free agency

Why Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are likely to test free agency

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Top agent Scott Boras held the Red Sox up as something of a model franchise on Wednesday. Naturally, he would: they had the highest payroll in baseball, and won a world championship.

Boras lamented the noncompetitive nature of many other clubs, and would love nothing more than for the Red Sox to keep spending.

“I told John Henry, he does not look good in soccer shorts,” Boras said, referring to Henry and Co.'s stake in Liverpool. “So to [divest] him of that and devote all to the baseball wellbeing of his interests. The soccer coach was there with him."

"You have a proven commodity [with the Red Sox]. You have players that are in their mid-20s. You have a team winning when you have a whole group of players that are in their mid- and early 20s. It’s really a model that’s going to allow you a great amount of success if you can retain those players. I think that the baseball algorithms will demonstrate they’re in for a good run if they retain those players.”

But will they retain them all?

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“I don’t know,” Boras said. “I was just getting champagne dust, so I have not talked to them at length about that yet.”

Doubtful. Not all of them. And a year from now, the likeliest outcome is that if Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez do sign long term deals here, they’ll have tested free agency first.

Two of the best Sox players entering potential walk years in 2019 are Boras clients. And virtually every factor suggests they’ll test the market, rather than ink new deals ahead of time.

When it comes to Martinez, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski essentially said as much himself Wednesday at the general managers’ meetings. 

There are opt-outs in Martinez’s deal, which could go as long as five years. But he can also walk away after next season. And there are also protections for the Red Sox if Martinez has a specific health situation arise.

Redoing the deal now would mean guaranteeing more of the contract, and Dombrowski made that sound like an uncomfortable proposition for the Red Sox, despite how successful Martinez has been.

“He can choose to leave, it’s his opt out,” Dombrowski said Wednesday. “But the reason we put ‘em in there were medically oriented as we went through at the time.”

“That medical hasn’t changed,” Dombrowski noted.

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Martinez, who didn't make as much money as he wanted to last winter, probably will be more than happy to go back on the market himself.

Bogaerts is a different story from a Sox' perspective. But Both Dombrowski and Boras have matters to tackle first.

For one, Boras has a huge spotlight on him as free agent outfielder Bryce Harper’s representative. Harper reportedly turned down a contract worth $300 million to stay with the Nationals. On a basic level, Boras will be focused on what he has to do immediately: get Harper the kind of mega-deal everyone has always expected he would receive.

“I have had Scott do some earlier deals,” Dombrowski said regarding timing. “Not regularly, but he does do it once in a while, so we’ll find out as time goes on. You know, he’s got a lot of big guys out there at this time, so he has a tendency to focus on them. But Bogey’s only one year away, so that’s important for us.”

But Dombrowski also needs to figure out his priorities, with Chris Sale also set to become a free agent next winter, Mookie Betts two years away from free agency, and also plenty of choices to make this winter with present free agents.

“We got a lot of decisions to make,” Dombrowski said. “You know you got Bogey in another year. Mookie, Jackie [Bradley Jr.] in a couple years. So you got some big contracts. And we have great ownership, wherewithal. But still, everybody has some limitations too. So we have to make some tough decisions. But we’ll be prepared to keep a lot of our players, but I’m not sure which ones it’ll end up being as time goes on.”

Even if Boras and Dombrowski were to clear their schedules and slates to discuss Bogaerts right now, there’s good reason for Bogaerts to wait.

Harper’s presence in the free-agent market, along with Manny Machado’s, has long been considered a possible reset, a time when the pay scale can be changed for the players’ betterment. If they’re both paid handsomely, the worth of subsequent free agents increases.

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“I sit and listen,” Boras told NBC Sports Boston on Wednesday. “And my attitude is, I always listen. And so I’m open to any thoughts they have on the subject. And then we go from there.”

Another Boras client, Jose Altuve of the Astros, agreed to an extension last spring training, for five years and $151 million in additional money. Altuve is 28 now, Bogaerts is 26.

“Well Bogaerts is [two and a half] years younger. But he’s a shortstop,” Boras said of Bogaerts. “So he’s done a lot.”

That's Boras code for: "Bogaerts is going to be really rich, and I'm going to make sure of it."

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Scott Boras praises J.D. Martinez's leadership, blasts MVP voters

Scott Boras praises J.D. Martinez's leadership, blasts MVP voters

When the list of A.L. MVP finalists was released earlier this week, there was one glaring exception: J.D. Martinez. 

The star slugger had an excellent first season in Boston after being signed to a mammoth contract over the offseason. He played a key role in their franchise-record 108 wins, and helped lead the team in every aspect to a World Series victory. 

His agent, Scott Boras, has represented some of the best baseball players in the game over the course of three decades. Wednesday at the GM meetings in California, he said that the way Martinez impacted the Red Sox with his leadership was something he'd never seen before. Consequently, Boras put the voters who left Martinez off the finalist ballot on blast for what he considered to be a grevious error. 

"His leadership and impact on the team was extraordinary… I don’t know of any player at any time in my career that’s had a greater impact on a team, apart from his performance, with his leadership and influence in the locker rom and the unique information he conveyed.

"I don't know of any player ever that's had more of an impact than what J.D. did in 2018." 

That's some high praise, even if it's expected, coming from an agent who's represented Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Greg Maddux, among others over the duration of his career.  

Boras went on to passionately express his opinion that Martinez's absence from the finalist ballot is an absurd transgression. 

"Every voter should be brought publicly into a forum and be taken to task for their negligence... There's a complete breach of understanding of the value of a player." 

Martinez certainly had a season that is worth MVP consideration, and his absence from the finalists list comes as a surprise to more people than just Boras. 

Individual accolades aside, it sounds like Martinez had more of an impact than we may ever realize on this year's Red Sox team, and it ended in a championship.

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After foot injury held things up, JD Martinez finally introduced by Red Sox

After foot injury held things up, JD Martinez finally introduced by Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A sole medical issue that probably won’t ever impact J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox held up the slugger’s introductory press conference, which went off smoothly Monday morning at JetBlue Park.

Martinez never thought his contract was in any trouble.

“No, not really, that thought never crossed my mind,” Martinez said when asked if he thought the deal may fell apart. “I kind of knew that it was really, like they said, being thorough, going through everything. Crossing-all-the-t’s and dotting-all-the-i’s-type deal. I never once worried about it.”

At the beginning of the 2017 season, Martinez had a sprained Lisfranc ligament in his right foot.

“And so it healed, went on his way and played,” Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, said Monday. “Obviously, the X-rays and things showed he had this condition called the Lisfranc condition. It’s healed, back to normal. The question is, what if that has any impact in the long term? And [we] kind of agreed that it’s not much of an issue, but what if it’s an issue in the latter part of the contract?

“From our standpoint, we have opt-outs in the second year, the third year, the fourth year, and we can, we have flexibility. And they have some protection at the back end, that’s all. In case there’s a disabling injury.”

Some revision to Martinez’s originally agreed upon five-year, $110 million deal was made. The dollars have not changed. Martinez has a limited no-trade clause. But, Martinez now has a third opt out — after the fourth year as well. In the original agreement, he could opt out after Year 2 or Year 3. Now, he has the choice after Year 4 in addition.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are protected if Martinez spends a certain amount of time on the disabled list because of a matter related to the prior Lisfranc joint injury. After Year 3 or Year 4, the deal can be converted to a mutual option, rather than just an opt out for Martinez. In essence, the Sox can back out of the deal after Year 3 or 4, based on these conditions, per a source:

A mutual option for Year 4 is triggered if:

1. Martinez suffers a Lisfranc injury related to his prior Lisfranc injury. A three-doctor system will define if the injury is related to prior Lisfranc injury.
2.  Because of that old injury, he has spent 60 days on DL in Year 3 — or 10 days or more in Year 3, plus a total of 120 DL days in Year 2 and Year 3.

A mutual option for Year 5 is triggered if:

J.D. Martinez suffers a Lisfranc injury related to his prior Lisfranc injury. A three-doctor system will define if the injury is related to prior Lisfranc injury.
2.  Because of that old injury, he has spent 60 days on DL in Year 4 — or 10 days or more in Year 4, plus a total of 120 DL days in Year 3 and Year 4.

 

The reality, then, is that these contingencies probably won’t ever come into play. With so many opt-outs, if Martinez performs well with the Red Sox, he’ll likely re-enter the free-agent market. But both sides were smart to make sure they’re protected. And it took a lot of energy to put the protections in place. Martinez went to Boston on Thursday for a doctor’s visit.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that his assistant general manager, Brian O’Halloran, put in endless hours, as did Red Sox doctors, to get the deal finalized.

“Dave and I have known one another a long time and we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better over the last five days,” Scott Boras says.

“And that says a lot,” Dombrowski adds in.

Boras was at a hotel in a shopping center not far from JetBlue Park.

"It’s kind of like I had to set up my law office here in Fort Myers,” Boras said. “Literally, it’s like 18 hours a day of doctors, language. Using our database historically to answer the needs of the team, the needs of the doctors. You’re going through a process of getting the evaluations, listing everybody addressing the evaluations. And again evaluations medically are subjective. And so, you’ve got to really discuss it both with the experts that you have, and the experts that they have, so that you can really define what the concern is. And that definition for what the concern is, is a difficult one medically. Because you’re talking about a healthy athlete. You’re not talking about an injury. You’re talking about something that may or may not happen. 

“You first have to take the attitude that, that’s reasonable. The second attitude you have to take is that you don’t want to be excessive about how this athlete is treated to protect his interests, and also understand the team’s interest. Being a lawyer, you’re doing dealing with the lawyers. In Dave’s case, a baseball executive, you’re outside the medical community. You’re just hearing what the medical community has to say. And then he’s hearing what our medical community has to say, and then you back and forth. 

“I’m dealing with the Boston owners, I’m dealing with Dave, I’m dealing with doctors and then you, once you have the medical part addressed, then you’re able to contractually define it and go through a process that allows for you know what, how to address their concerns in a fair manner.”

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