Martinez opts in for Red Sox
J. D. Martinez has decided to opt in and stay with the Boston Red Sox for 2020.
What this now means for Mookie Betts is another question entirely, and this is shaping up to be one of the most curious free agency periods for some time.
There were many rumours flying around that Martinez was going to dip into free agency, but such assumptions never materialised, and he will now be back for another season.
Despite him being one of their top run scorers, the Red Sox may feel that it is better to trade him to try to get a more rounded squad, which appeared top-ended at times in 2019 after they failed to follow their World Series win in 2018 with anything meaningful.
Martinez is in line for three more years at Fenway Park, with $62.5m to come his way over that period.
He is 32, and at a relative peak in his career, but the dip is probably not so far away, and the new management team at Boston will know that they do not have too long to make a decision on what to do next.
Part of the issue is the wider ramifications that come from this: if traded, they can open up salary cap space, and use leverage to bring in some younger talent with less of a big pay check.
When they won the title in 2018, they had one of the biggest payrolls in MLB, and owner John Henry has stated his desire to bring down the wage bill and operate on more of a level playing field to the rest of his competitors.
Having won the World Series, it made sense to go all out to boost a squad that just needed a couple more additions, but with them now faltering before the postseason in 2019, the argument is not so strong to allow them to continue in this fashion.
Martinez is still one of the elite hitters in the game, but if they are not expected to make the playoffs in the next couple of years, is it worth keeping him?
Their ambition will be key to their next moves, but the luxury tax cap is something that the bosses will be aware of and have no intention of paying if they can avoid it.
Martinez has had two of his best ever seasons, so it is no wonder that he decided to stay, but he might not fit Boston’s vision for 2020.
They may decide to move Betts on instead – it remains to be seen.
Words: Josh Dixon