Right-handed reliever Chris Martin and the Boston Red Sox are in agreement on a two-year, $17.5 million contract, pending physical, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Martin, 36, was magnificent for the Dodgers after a deadline trade and parlayed it into a multiyear deal.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 2, 2022
This was a pretty major development for most fans early on in an offseason that hadn’t produced much in terms of Sox-related news.
But for someone like me, this may have been the news of the century. Chris Martin signing for the Red Sox is like the moon landing in ‘69 (nice) as far as I’m concerned.
If there are two things you need to know about me, it’s that:
- I am a diehard Red Sox fan, and
- I am a diehard Coldplay fan.
I unironically adore the group fronted by the singer who shares the same name as the latest Red Sox signing. Chris Martin (the British version) has the voice of an angel. From the hits to the B-sides, I know their music like the back of my hand. I have seen the band live four times, which is not nearly enough. They consistently top my Spotify Wrapped lists. I became a fan back in 2008 (the Viva la Vida or Death And All His Friends era, what a time to be alive) and I haven’t looked back since.
I can hear your laughs and your fingers clicking away at the keyboards already—poking fun at Coldplay, bringing up the jokes from Family Guy or The 40-Year-Old Virgin, things of that nature. Trust me: I’ve heard ‘em all before and they will not make my opinion on the matter any worse.
go ahead. keep screaming "Shut The Fuck Up " at me. it only makes my opinions Worse— wint (@dril) March 10, 2018
Before I go on for too long defending
Pectoralz Starfish Coldplay in this post, let’s regroup our focus. As a huge Sox and Coldplay fan, I believe I am uniquely qualified to summarize this transaction.
What better way to dive into the Chris Martin signing than with three Chris Martin lyrics?
1. “I promise you I will learn from my mistakes.”
It’s no secret that the Red Sox bullpen’s stock in 2022 was low. Nobody said it was easy to put together a top-tier relief staff, but putting games to bed often proved to be the hardest part for Boston on their path to victory.
According to Covers.com, the Red Sox’s collective bullpen ERA was 4.59 while the WHIP stood at 1.36; both marks were good for the bottom 10 in MLB. Surprisingly: they did not have the most blown saves in their own division. Boston’s 28 blown saves out of 65 chances still doesn’t seem as bad as Tampa’s league leading (leading?) 36, even if the Rays had 15 extra save opportunities, but coughing up damn near half of your late leads is always going to be in your head when you think about what could’ve been for the club. If the Red Sox blew even 20 saves this past year instead of 28, they would’ve tied with—ironically enough—the Rays for the final wild card position.
One can only hope that this transmission got to Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and that he won’t let the bullpen break our collective heart going forward. Starting with high hopes only to find your back on the line and on the ropes is no recipe for success. Guys like Garrett Whitlock and John Schreiber are excellent tools to have ready to come into a game in relief, and Tanner Houck could be highly effectively out of the ‘pen—that boy is electric with his fastball and slider playing off of each other.
Yet while everything’s not lost for this group, the Sox can’t rely on just two or three guys to aid in relief. Signing Martin to add depth is a good way to ensure Boston doesn’t stay stuck in square one with their bullpen woes.
2. “I feel my heart beating, you make me feel like I’m alive again.”
When your bullpen is broken and in need, your team can do much worse than signing the guy who’s posted a 134 ERA+, 1.07 WHIP, and 2.99 FIP since the start of 2018. Chris Martin’s sparkling peripheral numbers led to great production last season, as he was good for a 3.05 ERA across 56 innings for two clubs.
The proof behind Martin’s success on the mound lies within his ability to limit free passes. He’s consistently good for a walk rate near or below 2.5% per Baseball Savant. That’s truly elite and is espeically potent when mixed with a high strikeout rate (his 32.9% strikeout percentage in 2022, which didn’t curve away from his typical expectations, was in the top 6th percentile in MLB).
One possible warning sign in the future for Martin is the hard hit rate, as the 36-year-old’s average exit velocity last year was about middle of the pack for qualified pitchers. But don’t panic; he’s historically allowed a low launch angle. Even if he gives up some harder contact during his Red Sox tenure, one can figure it won’t result in anything much higher than his 1.0 HR/9 allowed during his major league career. The still impressive 95 MPH heater at his age would help with that assumption.
Point is: I don’t forsee Martin crumbling and falling on his face in Boston. He’s shown a knack for keeping the ball in front of the defense while pounding the strike zone with his fastball-cutter combo and keeping walks in check.
Martin just might light a fire and a spark for a bullpen that deseprately needs the assistance come 2023.
3. “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.”
Piggybacking off the first point: having a strong option in Martin is certainly nice, but it’s not going to completely alleviate the tides that the bullpen has tried to swim against as of late.
You’ve got to soldier on and add more relief depth, Chaim.
It’s not that Bloom hasn’t been trying to get it together—the Martin deal along with the Joely Rodriguez acquisition are steps in the right direction to address what’s wrong—it’s just that the Red Sox are going to need more than another 60-or-so innings of relief help to wipe away the trouble.
Those efforts to add additional arms have so far proven to be futile. The Red Sox were just recently outbid by the New York Yankees for the services of Tommy Kahnle, as the righty will reportedly be returning to the Bronx on a two-year deal.
The good news is that the front office likely knows where they can go to pick up some new friends for the bullpen. A bunch of free agent relief options remain following the start of the Winter Meetings. Big names such as Kenley Jansen, familiar faces like Adam Ottavino, and potential reclamation projects including Taylor Rogers are all still without new contracts.
There are also rumors that All-MLB closer and Aussie extraordinaire Liam Hendriks could be on his way out of the south side of Chicago; maybe we’ll get what we wanted and he’ll be changing the color of his sox from white to red? It’s a pipe dream, sure, but it’s a possibility.
Rogers presents an interesting (and probably more realistic) opportunity for Boston. The southpaw was a reliable option in Minnesota from 2016 through 2021, logging an even 3.00 ERA and 134 ERA+ during his time in the Twin Cities. The start of his 2022 campaign in San Diego was also solid—he saved 28 games for the Dads and his 2.34 FIP was a far cry from his 4.35 ERA—before everything went up in flames after he was traded to Milwaukee in the Josh Hader deal. An ERA and FIP both over 5 with the Brew Crew to go along with nearly four walks per nine innings and a 73 ERA+? Stink, stank, stunk.
Yet, I don’t think the 31-year-old Rogers just suddenly lost his pitching abilities, Space Jam style. I’d be willing to bet on the prior track record, especially if he’s going to be coming at a discount this offseason given his recent mishaps. He’s someone that could end up being a steal should the Red Sox roll the dice on him. Another left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Red Sox certainly wouldn’t hurt, and we’re talking about a former All-Star who could be available for a song (I dunno if it’s a Coldplay song, but it’s a song nevertheless).
Taylor Rogers, Wicked Slider. pic.twitter.com/ArZEnIOchH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 23, 2022
Time’s gonna keep creeping, though, and time’s a loaded gun. More bullpen help has to be found by Bloom sooner rather than later. The dominoes are beginning to fall at a rapid pace this winter. Boston can’t be left dead on the surface and screaming underneath, or else they’ll risk having bullpen success fly away from their reach yet again.
For now, we’ve just gotta hope that more help is just ‘round the corner for us.