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The Red Sox want J.D. Martinez to DH, but there’s a catch

Monday’s Say Hey, Baseball looks at a potential issue for the top free agent bat.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers - NLDS Game Two Photo by Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images

The team seemingly most interested in signing J.D. Martinez is the Red Sox. The position Martinez is seemingly most interested in playing is the outfield. The Red Sox want a designated hitter, not another outfielder, as they already have, from left to right, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts: That trio forms one of the best, if not the best, defensive outfields in the game.

The good news for the Red Sox is Martinez has reportedly told them he would DH for them, with some outfield mixed in — the expectation is that the Red Sox will have to pay more for that plan, but they’ve got the money. Martinez being mixed in as the guy who lets the other outfielders rest could certainly work.

The issue hinted at by the headline, however, is Hanley Ramirez. He’s the team’s current designated hitter, with Mitch Moreland the likely starting first baseman given he was re-signed to a two-year deal earlier this offseason. As Nick Cafardo points out in his Sunday column, the Red Sox could trade Ramirez, but to where and for what are your questions of the day.

He’s owed $22.75 million in 2018 and has a $22 million vesting option for 2019 that’s within reach, as it’s based on plate appearances (497) he doesn’t need anywhere near a full season to surpass. He would have to pass a physical after, too, but if Ramirez logs over 1,000 plate appearances between 2017-2018, he’s probably just fine there. If Ramirez hits like he did in 2016, when he posted a 126 OPS+ and played a decent first base, that money would be fine. He was a below-average hitter in 2017, though, so selling him as a potential upgrade almost anywhere is tough.

The Red Sox can eat enough money to make any deal happen, but in the meantime, they need to get Martinez to agree to a contract. The real holdup appears to be contract length: The Red Sox don’t want to go past five, and Martinez, the top hitter on the market who was on par offensively with Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, is looking for more than that. Just give in, Sox: You have a need, and Martinez has the bat to fill it.