A few months ago, it seemed more than likely that J.D. Martinez would either re-sign with the Diamondbacks or head to the Red Sox for a juicy free agency contract. There were other suitors, but they were on the fringes and those rumors always seemed like a few teams testing the waters rather than trying to go all in on Martinez’s talents.
But that was a few months ago, and now we’re a few weeks into Martinez and the Red Sox in a staring contest that shows no signs of stopping.
We know by now he has an offer for five years and around $125 million from Boston, that the Diamondbacks are presumably below that but we’re not sure by how much, and he’s perfectly fine sitting at home until spring training or after that — as long as it takes to raise these offers to something that he and agent Scott Boras consider more in line with his value right now. (He’s not the only one either, with another free agent reportedly fine sitting out a chunk of the season if needed.)
In new reports from Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, there are signs that not only is the impasse not thawing but it could actually be getting worse. Rosenthal reports Martinez is still fine with holding out, but now he’s “fed up with the Red Sox’s inflexibility” and as such might be turning his eyes elsewhere to see if another team will negotiate more reasonably.
However that might not be the best strategy since — as Rosenthal also points out — if the Diamondbacks or another team were hot on Boston’s heels in the Martinez market, they’d probably feel pressure to up there offer and get his signature on a contract ASAP. Which is apparently not the present situation.
Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski told The Athletic they’re fine sitting back and seeing what happens, even possibly seeing what the trade market might bring, another sign they are comfortable letting Martinez twist in the wind.
Of the trade market, Dombrowski said,
“Normally in the spring you’re just touching base with clubs to have a feel of what they’re looking to do. Early in the spring, most people don’t do a lot. But this year might be different. This year you might have active looks at clubs that you normally would not. It’s amazing. At this time of year, you normally don’t get phone calls out of the blue about such-and-such being available. I have. I don’t know what’s going to go on.”
He also mentioned the team might not need Martinez because they have Hanley Ramirez. Which is like saying you don’t need a new Audi because you have a Lexus up on blocks in the front yard — but the engine is in great shape!
There are definitely other moves the Red Sox could make and Martinez is not the only free agent out there (because they are all still out there). They could re-sign Eduardo Nunez, maybe those Eric Hosmer rumors come back around and he lands at Fenway, maybe they actually will trade for someone that can give them the dingers they need.
But right now, the focus is going to be on these two sides pushing pieces of paper across the table at each other until they finally find a middle ground, even if that happens well into spring training.
Publicly comparing Martinez to Ramirez, and continuously insisting they don’t need him, is a negotiating tactic for sure. But the Red Sox might also want to reign that in a bit lest they ruin a relationship with a future player before he even signs with the team. There’s a fine line between negotiating tactics and putting a guy down so much he either spurns you or is already dissatisfied with his new home at the beginning of a lengthy contract.