The Red Sox have three games left on their schedule down in Atlanta to take on a Braves team that, while in the postseason, really has nothing to play for. So while they’re still playing, everyone is pretty much in offseason mode. That includes the beat, which is not to say they are letting up but rather asking about the offseason rather than the season. J.D. Martinez was one of the players to get a Zoom call this afternoon and he was asked about his opt out that he can exercise after the season. Surprising absolutely no one, Martinez indicated he is unlikely to opt out, although he didn’t shut the door completely.
JD Martinez said he’s probably leaning toward opting in.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) September 25, 2020
Although Martinez didn’t totally rule out the possibility of opting out and said he would discuss things with his agent Scott Boras, it’s not going to happen. Everyone knew this already, and this is just making it all but official. Martinez has had by far his worst season in recent memory, coming into this final series hitting .217/.293/.398 for a wRC+ of 78, which means he’s been 22 percent worse than the league-average hitter. For context, coming into this season he had not finished with a wRC+ below 136 since 2013. It’s been a disaster of a season.
So that alone is reason enough to not opt out of his deal and hit the open market, but there are reasons beyond his performance at the plate. For one, he just turned 33 about a month ago and he doesn’t provide anything on defense. Modern front offices don’t really pay for that profile unless the offense is sure to be elite. Additionally, the market this winter is unknown at best and is very likely to be terrible for players. After not having fans all winter ownerships across the league are going to use that as en excuse, fairly or unfairly, to drive down contracts at all levels of the market. The elite players will still probably get nice deals, but it’s likely to get ugly for everyone else.
There’s really no reason for Martinez to put himself into that situation when he can simply toss his opt out to the side and take his $19.35 million he’s owed in 2021. He can hope that a more normal offseason — which we all hope is what’s coming — a full season in 2021 (again, hopefully) and perhaps a return to video will provide a bounce back. Martinez is also under contract for the same amount of money for 2022 as well, though he has an opt out after next season as well. So if he does rebound, he has every opportunity to hit the open market again next winter.
But for now, the Red Sox can plan on having him on the roster at least heading into the offseason. I’m sure there will be some trade speculation, but I’d imagine the market on that front will be rough, too. If Martinez does make it through the winter on the roster, which is my expectation, his contract will count for $23.75 million for luxury tax considerations.
A previous version of this story had Martinez’s batting average as .278, and has been corrected to show .217.