Still in need of the big bat they didn’t get last winter, the Boston Red Sox are reportedly eyeing D-Backs slugger J.D. Martinez as a potential signing.
The Boston Red Sox‘s 2017 season is certainly not over yet, but down 2-0 in their ALDS series to a Houston Astros squad that has overmatched them in virtually every aspect of the game, it’s understandable to begin looking ahead to the offseason a bit.
Boston’s most pressing task a year ago was finding a way to replace superstar DH and franchise icon David Ortiz‘s bat in the lineup. It’s a challenge they didn’t exactly meet. While free agent signee Mitch Moreland had a decent enough campaign with a .246/.326/.443 slash line, 22 home runs and 79 RBI, it was a far cry from the .315/.401/.620 line, 38 homers and 127 RBI Ortiz produced in his age-40 season.
No one was realistically going to replicate those numbers at the plate or provide Big Papi’s presence in the clubhouse, but the Red Sox could definitely have used some more pop in their batting order this season, regardless of how their current series turns out. After leading the majors in 2016 with an .810 OPS, Boston came in at just 22nd this year with a .736 mark. Between their two ALDS games so far, they’ve scored four runs with a .566 OPS.
Edwin Encarnacion seemed like a natural fit last offseason, but Cleveland scooped him up relatively late in the process, and he went on to post an .881 OPS with 38 long balls and 107 RBI.
Unsurprisingly, offense will again be on the wish list this winter, and the Sox may already have an idea of whom they’d like to target. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe says the team “would appear to be in [the] hunt” for Diamondbacks slugger J.D. Martinez.
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The right fielder has been nothing short of sensational in Arizona since being traded from the Tigers. He slashed .302/.366/.741 with 29 homers and 65 RBI for the D-Backs in only 62 games. Though the club faces a 2-0 deficit of its own against the Dodgers, Martinez belted a home run in Game 1. On the year, he owns a .303/.376/.690 line with 45 homers and 104 RBI (both career highs), and that’s while missing 43 contests.
Naturally, the 30-year-old Martinez will be in high demand this offseason, with Cafardo speculating a five-year deal in the $100 million range. The Sox could certainly pay that if they wanted, but discussion about the luxury tax threshold has some fans and pundits wondering just how far they’ll be willing to go in any upcoming contract negotiations.
Boston does have a connection that could play in its favor, however. Team president Dave Dombrowski, then leading Detroit’s front office, signed Martinez as a free agent in 2014 after the Astros released him. It’s fair to say that was a nice pick-up. Dombrowski already has plenty of familiarity with Martinez, and he’s shown a willingness to reunite with old friends before (i.e. David Price). It might not be a deciding factor, but it lends credence to the idea that the Sox will be genuinely interested.
For now, both the Red Sox and Diamondbacks are still alive in the postseason. Martinez has talked about wanting to stay in Arizona long-term, and though traditionally not big spenders (Zack Greinke not withstanding), their unexpected run to the playoffs this year could motivate them to keep the band together.
Boston, though, will want to make up for its missed opportunity with Encarnacion, and Martinez would be a great way to do so. Stay tuned.