Yeah, we’re doing another J.D. Martinez post, because what the hell else is there to talk about? The Red Sox’ offseason has essentially come to a screeching halt — although, I suppose that implies it ever got moving in the first place — as they wait for the biggest slugger on the market make his decision. Whenever that happens, either the Red Sox will have a new DH or they will quickly move in another direction. Until then, it’s basically just talking about Martinez and the effects of his market on Boston, save for a few arbitration-avoiding deals here and there.
For the most part, we’ve covered things from the Red Sox perspective and how any move from Martinez would affect Boston because, well, we’re a Red Sox site. Since this has been held off for so long from Martinez and his agent Scott Boras, though, there has to be some competition for his services even if the rumor mill hasn’t exactly been off-the-charts active this winter. So, there’s a little mystery here. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the potential suitors who could be competing with the Red Sox for Martinez.
Perhaps the team most mentioned besides the Red Sox in this J.D. Martinez sweepstakes has been the Diamondbacks, a team that is not generally involved in high-end free agency talks. Of course, they did sign Zack Greinke just a few years ago, though it’s that contract that could hold them back in this case. Arizona is generally not a large-market team, and it’s tough to see how they could afford both Greinke and Martinez while also trying to hold on to Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. There has been some talk about them trading Greinke to make room, and if that happens they could become the prohibitive favorites for Martinez. After all, the slugger was incredible at the end of the year for them in 2017, and they just hired his personal hitting coach to join the organization. If Martinez’ market ends up smaller than was expected at the start of the offseason, perhaps they’ll be willing to extend their payroll to try and compete with the Dodgers while Goldschmidt and Pollock are in their prime, but it would be a deviation from their past. I think they’re somewhat legitimate contenders here, though it’d still be a bit of a surprise.
It seems reasonable that the most likely destinations for Martinez should be in the American League given his lackluster defense, but the top two teams mentioned other than the Red Sox both play in the NL West. Along with the Diamondbacks, the Giants have been linked to the slugger a bunch this winter. It makes sense, as their offense is probably in need of a power bat even more than Boston’s as they are coming off a horrible season. With Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey still in their primes, it doesn’t make sense for them to go into a rebuild, so targeting big free agents is a likely path. They already traded for Evan Longoria, but they could also use some help in the outfield. They’ve been linked to just about every outfield free agent thus far, and though it seems the link has been stronger Jay Bruce, I’d say the Giants are probably the biggest competition for Martinez.
I’m always afraid that the Blue Jays are going to swoop in and steal away a big free agent whose market hasn’t developed as expected, but that hasn’t really happened much in the past. Perhaps that will change now. Toronto is in a strange spot with their once vaunted offense dropping off after Edwin Encarnacion left and Jose Bautista declined then left. Josh Donaldson is still there, but the current Blue Jays are carried by their pitching staff. It’s a staff that could be good enough to sneak into a wild card, but they’d certainly have a better chance with a partner for Donaldson in the middle of the lineup. Martinez would be perfect, though he’d probably have to play more outfield since they already have Kendrys Morales as a DH. Still, Toronto is too big of a market for the Blue Jays to consistently sit out of free agency, and Martinez could get them into a playoff conversation. I’m always wrong about how involved they’ll be, but if they are ever going to get involved in this kind of market, now is the time.
Now, we are out of teams that have been legitimately linked to Martinez and enter into speculative territory. Feel free to mock me for these, as I am numb to being mocked at this point. This one I am sort of stealing from Chelsea Janes, the Nationals beat writer for the Washington Post. In this post, she speculated that Washington could make another late jump on a Scott Boras client. There are a bunch of those this year, and Jake Arrieta is the one who has been linked to them the most. Still, if they wanted they could sign Martinez as their pre-emptive Harper replacement and put Michael Taylor back on the bench for a year with Adam Eaton moving into center field. They’d give up a little defense, but their lineup would be pretty bonkers and they’d be among the favorites in the National League yet again.
Perhaps I’m just putting too much stock into the fact that Seattle once pounced late in the offseason and signed Robinson Cano out of nowhere, but I could see it happening with Martinez too. Jerry DiPoto, Seattle’s GM, is never afraid to make a move and has been aggressive this year. They traded for Dee Gordon to put in the outfield, and were seen as favorites for Shohei Ohtani before he signed with the Angels. Like Toronto, the Mariners already have a full-time DH and Seattle already has questionable defense in their outfield. That being said, they are in a tough division with both the Angels and the defending champion Astros, and they are nearing the end of their window with Nelson Cruz and Cano. Perhaps that could be motivation enough to make a big splash like Martinez.
Speaking of teams that are trying to compete in that tough American League West, the Rangers are coming off a disappointing year but don’t appear ready to rebuild. Although they’ve been linked more to center fielders like Lorenzo Cain, they could also use a new DH rather than leaning on rookie Willie Calhoun. This is probably a reach, but if the price comes down enough Texas could benefit from this kind of move.
Finally, we have yet another American League West team and perhaps the best of the bunch. Houston’s rebuild is obviously over having just won the World Series, and now they have a target on their back. The young players who brought them a title are going to get more expensive and the Astros will want to save money for that, but they also play in a big enough market to afford some big contracts along with that. Houston obviously had a historically great offense in 2018 and are only losing Carlos Beltran, but if they can afford Martinez that would only increase their chances of repeating in 2018. Again, I don’t think this is likely but it sure as hell would be intriguing.