Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

J.D. Martinez contract might be most complex in Red Sox history

Alex Reimer
February 27, 2018 - 2:02 pm

It took the Red Sox and J.D. Martinez nearly one week to finalize the slugger’s nine-figure deal. During that time, the two sides transformed the contract into maybe the most complex in franchise history. 

Super agent Scott Boras told reporters Monday the new agreement includes protections for both Martinez and the Red Sox. We’ll have to take his word for it. Anybody without a law degree would be hard-pressed to understand the fine print. 

Previously, the Red Sox and Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million contract with player opt-outs in years two and three. Martinez could make $50 million through the first two years (including a buyout) and $71.25 after year three. The contract is front-loaded, as Martinez would make $38.7 million over the last two seasons. 

Opt-outs are becoming increasingly popular in baseball. It’s a way for players to maintain leverage throughout their deals and also allows teams to front-load contracts and potentially sign themselves up for shorter commitments –– assuming the free agent performs up to expectations and chooses to hit the market again. Five years ago, the early details of the Martinez contract would have caused some suspicion. But right now, they’re commonplace. 

The finalized iteration of the contract added another buyout after year four, which is a little odd. Given the three opt-outs, it’s fair to say Martinez will only last all five seasons under this deal if he underperforms. Keep in mind, Martinez, 30, and Boras were reportedly looking for a contract north of $200 million.

Price, who inked a franchise-record seven-year, $217 million contract in 2015, has an opt-out after this season. But that’s it for him. Martinez gained more leverage.

So already, before the Red Sox’ protections come into play, the current contract gives Martinez an unusual amount of control. Those accommodations were made so the Red Sox could safeguard themselves against injury over the latter two years of the deal. Martinez missed the first six weeks of last season with a Lisfranc injury on his right foot. 

NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich broke down all of the details in a tweet Monday. They are headache-inducing. 

In plainer English, as WEEI’s John Tomase puts it, the Red Sox will receive financial relief in the last two years of the deal if Martinez spends at least 60 days on the disabled list in any year or 120 days cumulative because of the foot injury. But there are caveats. For example, a three-doctor system would determine whether any injury is related to Martinez’s previous foot issue or if it’s a new ailment. It’s also more likely the mutual option vests in the fifth year, of course, because the 120 days of DL time stays the same throughout the deal.

This isn’t the first time the Red Sox have worked out a contract with injury protections for one of Boras’ clients. J.D. Drew’s deal featured language that allowed the Red Sox to opt out of guaranteed money in 2010 and 2011 if his previous right shoulder injury reoccured. But there wasn’t a player opt-out, never mind three of them.

The quirkiest, and most team-friendly option in Red Sox history, might belong to John Lackey, who was forced to pitch a sixth year at the league minimum because he underwent Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox traded Lackey to the Cardinals during that sixth season. 

While that caveat was strange, it was straightforward. Same with Mike Napoli’s situation. The Red Sox chopped his three-year deal to an one-year commitment once they discovered his degenerative hip condition. Boston re-signed Napoli to a two-year contract after 2013, essentially fulfilling their old agreement. 

Manny Ramirez’s eight-year, $160 million included $32 million in deferred payments, ala Bobby Bonilla. He also was guaranteed to receive a no-trade clause if anybody else on the team was granted one during his time in Boston. 

The Red Sox have completed contracts with unconventional payment structures, player opt-outs and team injury protections before. But Martinez checks more of those boxes than others before him. It must have taken a small army of lawyers to get this deal done. 

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