Who Is He And Where Did He Come From?
He’s Chris Martin, and the Red Sox will be his seventh Major League team, on top of a stint with the Fighters in Hokkaido, Japan (reminder: Japanese baseball is cool). He actually started in the Red Sox minor league system way back in 2011, after he played one season for the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs. And if the fact that he started his professional career with a team called the AirHogs isn’t wild enough for you, his story gets even more interesting than that.
Martin had pitched one season for McLennan Community College when the Colorado Rockies selected him in the 21st round as a “draft-and-follow” guy back in 2005. The “draft-and-follow” system no longer exists, but at the time, MLB teams were permitted to draft a player with no intention of immediately signing him. Because teams held a draftee’s rights for 12 months, the player would then return to school, while the MLB team monitored his progress as it decided whether to tender him a contract.
Pretty cruel system, huh? It sure was, and Chris Martin was the poster-child for just how cruel it was because, in his next season back at McLennan following the draft, he tore his labrum. The Rockies declined to sign him, and Martin gave up on his dream of playing ball and went to work at a warehouse.
After a few years of hauling refrigerators at Texas Appliances, Martin and a co-worker (who also happened to be a former high school teammate) began playing catch during their downtime. Martin was surprised to find that his shoulder was finally pain-free, and that he seemed to have a little extra zip on his fastball. He tried out for his local American Association team and, for one season under former big league outfielder Pete Incaviglia, put up a 1.86 ERA, leading to his free agent deal with the Sox. Eleven years later, the Red Sox have signed him to yet another free agent deal, this time for two years and $17.5 million.
What Position Does He Play?
He’s a right-handed middle relief pitcher, which is arguably the most boring position on the field, but one which is necessary nonetheless.
Hey, He’s Got The Same Name As That Guy!
He sure does!
Is He Any Good?
Well, if you ask Chicago Cubs fans, they would probably say no. In 31.1 innings for the Cubs last year, he gave up 38 hits and 5 homers. However, that short stint with the Cubs is really the only blemish on his resume since returning from Japan in 2018. And even so, he immediately turned around his season after being traded to the Dodgers last year. In 24.2 innings in LA, he surrendered just 12 hits and put up an eye-popping 290 ERA+. That improvement doesn’t seem to be a coincidence, either. Rather, it seems to have been the direct result of the Dodgers telling him to completely abandon his curveball:
To be clear though, Martin isn’t just a guy who had a couple of good months with the Dodgers. As stated above, he’s been very solid since returning from Japan. In fact, he’s arguably the single best reliever in baseball in one crucial area: control. He led all qualified relievers last year, giving up just .8 walks per nine innings pitched.
What’s He Doing In His Picture Up There?
Shouting “AHHHHH! I’m throwing a pitch!” while throwing a pitch.
Show Me A Cool Highlight
Here he is striking out four hitters in a single inning last year. For a pitcher, it probably doesn’t get much cooler than doing something that, on the face of it, sounds impossible:
What’s His Role On The 2023 Red Sox?
He’s going to open the season as a late-inning, high-leverage option. Hopefully, he’ll end the season as one, too.