ORLANDO, Fla. – The Red Sox, in hopes of upgrading their power, are looking at free agent J.D. Martinez and others but as of yet haven’t been deeply involved in the winter’s most intriguing storyline, the Giancarlo Stanton derby.
Boston, which had difficulty replacing David Ortiz in his first year away and lagged other American League contenders in power departments, seems to have a keen interest in Martinez, a huge power threat who’d come at a big price tag but is still a much cheaper alternative to Stanton, who has $295 million and 10 years remaining on baseball’s record contract, which also happens to be backloaded.
The Giants, Cardinals and Phillies have been the most consistent pursuers of Stanton since last summer, though the Marlins really hadn’t begun shopping their big stars until the winter, once Derek Jeter’s ownership group took over. Other teams have presumably checked in, and a couple reports have suggested the Red Sox are involved; however, sources close to the Marlins situation suggest that to this point Boston does not appear to be at the forefront of talks.
The Stanton situation is expected to get full attention once the annual GM Meetings get under way, beginning here Monday. Stanton has a full no-trade as part of his groundbreaking deal, and while he only has said that he isn’t up for a rebuild, telling FanRag Sports two months ago in late September that he’d prefer not to endure yet another rebuild, he has the option of declining any deal, and thus has a lot of the power. Though he hasn’t discussed anything besides his preference to play for a competitive team, others around the team suspect he prefers one of the coasts, and possibly most prefers the West Coast if given the choice.
Martinez, one of the top free agents on the market, has a chance to come close to replicating Stanton’s power numbers, though he doesn’t bring nearly the cache as Stanton. Stanton led the majors with 59 home runs, 132 RBI and a .631 slugging percentage, though Martinez had quite a power year of his own, hitting 45 home runs in only 119 games. He would have led in slugging at .690 but didn’t have quite enough plate appearances to qualify.
Red Sox baseball president Dave Dombrowski has strong ties to Martinez from Detroit, where he picked him up off the scrap heap after a spring release by the Astros, who won the World Series in 2017 despite that decision. Dombrowski has said the Red Sox are willing to go over the luxury-tax threshold this year, and either signing would likely push them in that direction.
Martinez’s presence on the free-agent market is a bit of an impediment in the closely-watched Stanton sale, as many teams who are intrigued by Stanton will be interested in investigating Martinez first since he is a much more cost-efficient alternative.
While it’s likely Martinez will get a $100 million-plus deal, it’s also likely he won’t get too much more than half Stanton’s remaining contract. Though Miami presumably will be willing to offset some of the Stanton deal, the Marlins seek player compensation – namely top pitching prospects – in return. Martinez, as a traded player, doesn’t even have draft compensation attached to him.
The Red Sox could also look at top free-agent first basemen Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana since their own Mitch Moreland is a free agent. The market is flush with first basemen again, with many more free agents at first base, including Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds, Lucas Duda and old friend Mark Reynolds, in addition to old friend Mike Napoli, and of course Moreland.
While first base is the most natural fit for a Red Sox target, Boston could import a corner outfielder such as Martinez (or for that matter Stanton) and move Mookie Betts to center field. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has been mentioned in trades, and theoretically Betts could even play second base if Dustin Pedroia is out awhile.