Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Market forces likely to mean J.D. Martinez stays put; MLB, union play blame game

In a more normalized free-agent market, J.D. Martinez would already have one foot out the door, ready to cash in -- again.

For three straight seasons, Martinez has hit .300 or better with 35 or more homers and knocked in 100 or more runs. Since the start of 2017, Martinez leads the majors in homers and is second in the game in RBI.

For players with at least 500 plate appearances in that span, he's second in both OPS and slugging percentage, with only Mike Trout posting higher rates.

When it comes to run producers and consistency, Martinez is on a very short list and is, at-worst, the third-best in that category.

Unfortunately for Martinez, the game has changed. Or more to the point, the business of the game has changed. Since Martinez is 32 years old, the market for him will not accurately reflect that value.

For the past few winters, baseball has not had much to offer 30-something sluggers. Nelson Cruz, who, granted, is seven years older than Martinez, nonetheless hit 37 homers last year in cavernous Safeco Field, while slugging .509. Know what happened to him last winter? He took a $2 million pay cut for a one-year deal with the Twins.

Again, seven years is a considerable gap. But still, here was a right-handed power hitter/mostly DH who saw his salary reduced.

The big deals are going to athletic types in the prime of their careers. Manny Machado got $300 million over 10 years and Bryce Harper got $330 million over 13 seasons. But they were in their mid-20s and could still contribute defensively.

Heck, go back two years to when Martinez was just 30. He had to wait until late February for a five-year, $110 million deal. And that was essentially the same deal the Sox had offered back in December. Martinez and his agent Scott Boras waited and waited all offseason hoping another bidder would emerge. None did. In the end, the only alternative Martinez had would have to go back to the Arizona Diamondbacks on a short-term deal.

The deal has worked fabulously for the Red Sox. By any definition, Martinez has already outperformed the deal.

In the next few weeks, Martinez will have a decision to make. As part of the contract, the Red Sox included opt-outs in the deal after this season and also after next. Martinez has until five days after the conclusion of the World Series to inform the Sox if he's opting out.

If he opts out, it's as though he's a free agent. The Red Sox could still re-sign him, but that would require them to offer another year or two, or to boost his salary.

Especially given their desire to reduce payroll in order to get under the first competitive balance tax (CBT) of 2008, it's virtually impossible to conceive that the Red Sox would be open to meeting his request for a raise and/or longer term. If he opts out of his deal, he's as good as gone.

But I don't think that will happen in the first place. Here's why: