Before free agency could officially open up and start off the hot stove season, option decisions needed to be made around the league to finalize this winter’s free agent class. And for the Boston Red Sox, no decision loomed larger than the one presented to J.D. Martinez as to whether or not he would opt out of his contract and become a free agent. The slugger had a choice to stay in Boston for $19.375 million or opt out and become a free agent. It seemed like a true coin flip decision from the outside, and today we learned that he is staying Boston, passing on the opportunity to opt out.
JD Martinez declines to exercise optout and remains a Red Sox.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 7, 2021
Martinez has been a focal point of the Red Sox offense since arriving prior to the 2018 season, not only putting up big numbers but changing the overall approach of the offense and helping turn this into a group that will be aggressive and hunt mistakes. At his best, there are not many who are better pure hitters than Martinez, who can hit for power to all fields and just generally makes a ton of hard contact. This past season he hit .286/.349/.518 for a 128 wRC+.
On the other hand, Martinez is getting up in age and there are questions about what this offseason is going to look like for players around the league. A possible lockout could put a freeze on offseason activity and adds a level uncertainty for all free agents. That, combined with his DH-only profile, is likely what resulted in his decision to stay in Boston.
With this decision, the Red Sox are now left with a few options. They could certainly stand pat at the position, letting Kyle Schwarber sign elsewhere, keep Martinez at DH full-time and try to focus more on pitching and defense this winter. They could also attempt to field a roster including both Martinez and Schwarber. It’s not something I think I would ultimately advocate without confidence that the latter can become proficient at first base over the winter, but it’s not an impossibility. There’s also the chance of the team shopping Martinez, though that’s something that would be unlikely to happen before a new CBA is put in place and teams have a better idea of the financial rules moving forward.
Either way, Martinez is indeed passing on his opt-out, and the first major decision of the Red Sox offseason has been made.