Bradford: Why J.D. Martinez is so important to the Red Sox

Rob Bradford
December 12, 2017 - 11:27 pm

USA Today Sports

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Red Sox would be wise to pull this one off.

The Sox might have gotten their face-to-face with J.D. Martinez Tuesday night, while positioning themselves to offer more money than any other suitor. But that doesn't mean the Giancarlo Stanton-induced angst has already been put in the rear-view mirror. Dave Dombrowski has to put the pedal to the metal. It's that important.

Sure, there are other options. But what Martinez should represent is the be-all, end-all.

"We know who we want," said the Red Sox president of baseball operations Tuesday. "There's at least a pool of players that we want. I mean, I have the list in my pocket."

He didn't show us the list, but he really didn't have to.

There have been more difficult paths to free agent prizes. This time around, however, (as best anybody can tell) the Red Sox' chief competitors when it comes to securing Martinez's services are places like San Francisco and Arizona.

As for the Giants, they've got money. They showed that when pursuing Stanton. But it did seem like a powerful, and well-timed, point made by Dombrowski at the MLB winter meetings when citing the fact that only four right-handed hitters managed opposite field homers at AT&T Park last season. 

Still, they are a solid organization with a good chunk of change. Don't count them out.

The Diamondbacks? The consensus at the Swan and Dolphin Resort was that they were the longest of long-shots to re-sign Martinez. The contracts of Yasmany Tomas (potentially 3 years, $42.5 million owed) and Zack Greinke (4 years, $125 million owed) would seem to be standing in the way of a serious run.

But a few interesting developments took place recently. As learned, the Diamondbacks hired Robert Van Scoyoc to become a full-time "hitting analyst." Why is that so important? Van Scoyoc is almost to Martinez what Alex Guerrero is to Tom Brady. He is the guy the righty slugger has credited in turning his career around, with Martinez going so far as to ask his batting practice sessions be filmed on a daily basis for Van Scoyoc to study. (For more on the relationship, click here.)

Arizona would still need the money, however. That is a problem that it may be trying to solve by shipping out Greinke, who was reportedly getting interest from the Rangers during the first two days of the winter meetings. Still a long-shot, but just feasible enough to keep an eye on.

That brings us back to the Red Sox.

There is no other player on the open market who can do more for the Sox than Martinez. Eric Hosmer. Carlos Santana. They are good players who could help. But Martinez is the guy who is the only guy who can counter-act what the Yankees have found themselves with in Stanton. The 30-year-old is a good clubhouse guy who has offered above-average production for four years now. He is the Red Sox' second chance at Edwin Encarnacion, albeit at a bit more uncomfortable rate.

There aren't a lot of players in baseball who can do what Martinez does. The Red Sox have to prioritize accordingly.

And here's another thing at stake when it comes to this signing: the Red Sox' reputation.

One of the unknowns that have been lingering throughout these meetings is how much players actually want to play in Boston. Through all the mixed signals from the Stanton deal, it really didn't appear as though he was intent on heading to the Red Sox. Add that with the reality that the Sox' high-priced free agents of late have been reeled in with boatloads of cash, and not necessarily the draw of Sweet Caroline, and it leads to some questions. What if Martinez chooses somewhere else ... and then Hosmer ... and then Santana?

The Red Sox were surprised when Shohei Ohtani rebuffed their advances, and it certainly hurt when Dombrowski tried to dive back in only to have the Yankees stiff-arm his overtures. But both situations can be explained away, one way or another. Martinez? This is pretty cut and dried.

For what this team is right now, as long as he is open to spending most of his time at designated hitter (which Dombrowski insinuated was the case), Martinez represents the Encarnacion-esque fit. It would behoove the Red Sox not to miss the mark this time around.

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