All winter long we’ve been waiting for the Red Sox to make a big move for the middle-of-the-order bat it’s so clear they could use, and all winter long it’s seemed inevitable that J.D. Martinez will be that addition. It makes too much sense, as there aren’t a lot of other obvious suitors, there is a connection between him and Dave Dombrowski, and the Red Sox are one of the very few teams who aren’t trying to get under the luxury tax threshold for this season. Despite all that, Martinez remains a free agent and it there haven’t been any reports indicating that the two sides are at all close. Well, now we have an idea of how the Red Sox are valuing the best hitter on the market. Buster Olney is reporting that Boston’s offer to the slugger is for five years and $100 million.
Source: Boston's offer to J.D. Martinez is in the range of five years, $100 million.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 17, 2018
So, there are a few points I’d like to make about this report. The first and most obvious is that it’s just one report. Olney is one of the very best reporters in baseball, but these things can be inaccurate. But, because we have no tangible reason to believe otherwise, let’s assume it is true. If this is indeed the Red Sox’ offer, it feels really, really low. I know there are going to be some who feel this is Martinez’ actual value, but based on the free agent market that we have known for the last few years, there’s just no way this feels reasonable to me. I know the flaws. Martinez hasn’t played many full seasons. He’s doesn’t add defensive value, and is in fact a net negative if he’s forced to play the field enough. But the dude rakes and is simply one of the best hitters in baseball. He’s been a truly elite hitter in each of the last four years, and over that span the only players with a better wRC+ are Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper. There’s simply no way a 30-year-old player who is in the same conversation as those players is worth only $20 million a year on the open market.
Now, this is different than saying the Red Sox are dumb to only be offering this much. I have no idea what his actual market looks like. I could see this offer being insulting enough that Martinez and Scott Boras wouldn’t even come back to the Red Sox if another team came in an beat it. If that was the case, then this is a dumb offer. However, this has been an unprecedented offseason. Maybe no team is willing to beat this, and while it’s frustrating as a player-skewing fan, there’s no reason for the Red Sox to offer more. I find it very hard to believe that Martinez will have to settle for a $20 million average annual value — the same as Carlos Santana signed for earlier this winter and less than Hanley Ramirez signed for three winters ago — but this offseason has been really strange. It’s possible that this is just a prime example of how the economics of the game are really screwed up right now, and possibly beyond repair.
Upon hearing this report, my initial reaction is that the Red Sox are severely and possibly catastrophically low-balling their top target of the winter and the top hitter on the market. It’s entirely possible that this is true, though it doesn’t really sound like Dave Dombrowski. It’s also possible that this is just the result of a broken compensation system in the league and yet another sign that something’s gotta give. Either way, I don’t feel great about a five-year, $100 million offer for J.D. Martinez, and it’s not because he’s not worth it.
UPDATE: Jon Heyman is reporting that Olney’s report is inaccurate. Report fight!
scott boras generally doesn't discuss offers or non offers, but he did say the report of a $100M five-year offer by boston for jd martinez is "not accurate." (me: that does seem off/improbable as an offer since cespedes got $27.5M per year)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 18, 2018