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The Red Sox wanted J.D. Martinez a lot earlier than they ended up getting him

Rob Bradford
June 23, 2018 - 9:12 pm

The Red Sox obviously liked J.D. Martinez. That's why they locked him up this past offseason. But, as it turns out, the Sox' desire to reel in Martinez stretched beyond just waiting for the outfielder to hit free agency. 

Last season, as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, the Red Sox actually attempted to deal for Martinez.

"We had interest in him. We tried," Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski told when asked about his team's desire to deal for Martinez. "But (Detroit) felt comfortable in the deal they got and moved quickly."

According to a Major League Baseball source, the Red Sox joined the Indians and Diamondbacks as three of the most aggressive teams when it came to prying Martinez from the Tigers. While it is unclear which players Detroit was asking for in exchange for the slugger, the industry perception is that Detroit's request of the Sox was steeper than either of the other two teams.

Arizona ultimately dealt for Martinez on July 18, sending minor leaguers Sergio Alcantara, Jose King, and Dawel Lugo to Detroit. 

Even though Martinez's career with the Diamondbacks encompassed just 62 regular season games, and four in the postseason, the deal isn't leaving Arizona with many regrets. Mike Hazen's trade deadline acquisition not only hit 29 homers with a .302 batting average and a 1.102 OPS, but proved to be a valuable clubhouse addition.

None of the three players sent to Detroit have distinguished themselves in the minors this season, with 21-year-old Alcantara, a shortstop, hitting .277 with a .677 OPS at Single-A Erie. The speedy King, a 19-year-old shortstop, has shown some flashes at the plate but is still only at short-season Single-A in Connecticut, and Lugo, a Triple-A second baseman, sitting with a .287 batting average and .687 OPS in Toledo.

It's also interesting to note where the Red Sox roster was when Dombrowski made his play for Martinez last season. There was no obvious fit, particularly with then-designated hitter Hanley Ramirez carrying a .302 batting average and .883 OPS in the 18 days leading up to the Diamondbacks deal. And in the outfield, Jackie Bradley Jr. was hovering around .280, with Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts understandably untouchable.

If there was an opening in the lineup it was to replace Mitch Moreland, who was having a brutal July thanks to his broken toe, hitting .159 with a .465 OPS from July 1-18. But Ramirez's shoulder wasn't likely to allow him to play first base full-time.

But outweighing all of it was clearly the Red Sox' need for home runs. By the time Martinez switched teams, the Sox were last in the American Leagues in homers, carrying the fourth-fewest in the majors.

"We would have loved to get him," Dombrowski added.