J.D. Martinez on opt-out decision: 'I'm right in the middle'


It has been a good run for J.D. Martinez in Boston.

The designated hitter and sometime-outfielder has delivered all that the Red Sox could have asked for when inking Martinez to a five-year, $110 million deal heading into the 2018 season.

Podcast Episode
Weekend Shows
LIVE BP - Just Getting Started; Wildcard Wonders
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

While wearing a Red Sox uniform, Martinez has hit .297 with a .917 OPS and 113 home runs. There was also the 2018 postseason run which saw him go 15-for-50 (.300), with 10 walks, three homers, and a .923 OPS.

They are numbers the Red Sox would gladly sign up for considering the desperate need for a post-David Ortiz middle-of-the-order presence.

But now a decision needs to be made regarding Martinez's stay in Boston.

The 34-year-old is staring down at his third opportunity to opt-out of the current contract, with Martinez needing to decide whether or not he will play under the $19.35 million owed him for 2022 within five days after the completion of this year's World Series.

Which way is he leaning? Evidently, he isn't.

"I’m right in the middle," Martinez told WEEI.com regarding the opt-out decision. "It’s a balancing line, and I’m right in the middle. I haven’t made a decision. I don’t worry about that stuff, but right now I’m right in the middle."

The easy narrative would suggest that Martinez will ride out the final year of his contract with the Red Sox for a variety of reasons. For starters, without any guarantees that the universal designated hitter will return, the marketplace for Martinez's services seems limited.

Then again, perhaps the 34-year-old Martinez views this as an opportunity to secure a better multi-year deal with some American League teams still ready to pay for this sort of skill-set.

As for his possible competition for free-agent dollars, Nelson Cruz and Jorge Soler will be the next viable options for designated hitters.

Then there are the ramifications from the Red Sox' point of view.

Wade Hilligoss, who worked in MLB for five years and now runs the extremely valuable Twitter account @RedSoxPayroll offers a good perspective on the Martinez situation.

"With the unknown of what the tax line will be, if that dynamic for team-building changes dramatically in the new CBA, the opt-in for JD really just puts things in more of a 'pause' as they wait for the new rules to be ironed out," Hilligoss passed along. "If he opts out, they can feel freer to build the roster even without knowing what the CBA will do to payrolls. If he opts in, they'll need to evaluate whether anyone on the team needs to be swapped out for a more cost-effective contract. The name the jumps out at me is Christian Vazquez. He's a Top 10 catcher both offensively and defensively by most advanced statistics. But he makes $8MM next year and they have Connor Wong coming and (Chaim) Bloom could try to make a trade to alleviate cost at that position while addressing more pressing needs in the rotation and bullpen."

The flexibility of having an extra $19 million has to be intriguing for Bloom. But there is also a be-careful-for-what-you-wish-for dynamic at play.

The night-and-day feel of the Red Sox from 2017 to 2018 was very real, with the Sox learning their lesson after mistakenly banking on the likes of Hanley Ramirez and a rotating cast of characters to fill Ortiz's spot.

You can talk about the Rays way of doing things, and how their No. 3 spot has the lowest OPS in the American League. But they also boast the third-best OPS out of the cleanup position, only behind the Astros and Red Sox.

There is a reason why the Rays traded for Nelson Cruz (with Tampa Bay carrying a 9-2 record when the DH hits at least one home run).

For the time being, both Martinez and the Red Sox have more important things to worry about with six games left in the regular season. But once that final pitch of the World Series is thrown, all eyes will be on the Sox' slugger.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports