Potential J.D. Martinez replacement for Red Sox emerges

Rob Bradford
October 31, 2019 - 12:49 pm

We are going to have to wait a little while longer for J.D. Martinez's decision. The designated hitter/outfielder has until 5 p.m. Monday to decide if he is going to opt-out of his current deal with the Red Sox or return and be paid $23.75 million for the 2020 season by Boston.

But if Martinez does choose free agency a potential replacement for the Red Sox has officially emerged.

The Yankees announced that they weren't picking up the 2020 option on Edwin Encarnacion, which would have paid the 36-year-old $20 million. Instead, New York is giving Encarnacion a $5 million, buyout, sending him off to the free-agent market.

While Encarnacion clearly doesn't represent the level of player Martinez delivers he is still classified as one of the best designated hitters in the baseball. 

He finished 2019 with 34 homers and an .875 OPS in a combined 109 games with both Seattle and the Yankees, having missed a good chunk of time in New York with a broken wrist.

Encarnacion is completing a three-year, $60 million deal signed with Cleveland after the 2016 season. When entering that offseason he given his agent a list of three teams which the righty hitter wanted to prioritize, the Red Sox being one of them. Then-President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, however, showed no interest in bringing Encarnacion aboard, both as the immediate replacement for David Ortiz or when the Yankees dealt for the slugger last June.

As for Martinez, there is a split in baseball circles regarding which way he might be leaning, with perhaps the slight consensus leaning toward the idea of the 32-year-old choosing free agency. He is guaranteed $62.5 million over the next three seasons with the Red Sox, with another opportunity to opt-out after the 2020 season. Barring a National League team taking the chance of playing Martinez in the outfield on a regular basis, the most logical suitors figure to be the White Sox and Rangers.

One obstacle which Martinez will face if he chooses to opt-out is the Red Sox' plan to offer him a qualifying offer. If that happens any team signing Martinez (other than the Red Sox) will be forced to surrender a draft pick.

Martinez continued to establish himself as one of the best hitters in the game throughout 2019, hitting .304 with a .939 OPS and 36 home runs in 146 games. He played in the outfield for 38 games.