By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
We have reached the second week of January and the silence coming from the Red Sox offices on Yawkey Way continues to be deafening. While many believe that team president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski will ultimately get a deal done with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, there are no indications that his agent Scott Boras is interested in agreeing to the five-year contract proposal that the Sox head honcho has put on the table.
And even if they do ink Martinez to a deal, who is to say that they won’t be getting a right-handed hitting version of David Price, whom Dombrowski overpaid for in 2015 – a talented guy, who can’t handle the pressures of being looked at to carry the load for a big market team, that lives and dies with every game?
According to reports, Boras is seeking a seven-year deal for in the neighborhood of $210 million for the span of the deal, an astronomical amount for a guy who just four years ago was released by the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros.
Even without Martinez in the fold, the Red Sox find themselves with plenty of bad contracts on their books entering the 2018 campaign. Between Pablo Sandoval, Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo – two players whom they have paid to go away, and one they have drastically overpaid to play in Triple-A Pawtucket – the Sox are shelling out over $30 million for exactly zero production at the big-league level next year alone.
Price still has four years left at $30-plus million per season – unless, miraculously, he chooses to opt out with his player option after the season – Hanley Ramirez is owed $22 million for the coming season and with 497 at-bats, would vest an option for the same for 2019. Rick Porcello is on the books for over $21 million for the next two years, and the team is on the hook for the 34-year-old, often-injured Dustin Pedroia for $56 million until 2021.
Oh, and Craig Kimbrel’s deal is up after next season, and Chris Sale’s contract expires following the 2019 campaign. Not to mention, the club loses control over Xander Bogaerts in ’20, along with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in ’21.
Those numbers are enough to give any CPA trying to balance the books a popsicle headache.
As he has stated several times – surely for a better bargaining position with Boras on the potential Martinez signing – Dombrowski is content with entering the season with essentially the same lineup that he had last year, after resigning Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal this winter. And as much as this would rankle Sox fans who found last year’s team as boring as unbuttered, cold white-bread toast, it may be a wise decision to push away from the negotiating table with Boras over Martinez, unless the deal is friendly to the club.
And for as much as the “win now” mentality that exists in Red Sox fans’ minds, how much sense does it make to shell out $150 million for five years of Martinez now, when the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and even Josh Donaldson will be available free agents following next season?
Dombrowski finds himself in a difficult place currently, having dealt the depth of the deep farm system he inherited from Ben Cherington and Theo Epstein two years ago for the likes of Kimbrel, Sale and Drew Pomeranz. He was brought in by owner John Henry to produce immediate results, and despite winning the AL East Division for two consecutive years for the first time in team history, his clubs have produced exactly one playoff win.
Whether or not he has the intestinal fortitude not to blink at Boras’ demands for Martinez and choose a short-term option like Jay Bruce or Logan Morrison – both low average, power lefties, for which Fenway Park is not an ideal setting – and take his chances at the trade deadline to add a short-term rental, only time will tell.
However, overreaching for a guy like Martinez, who has never performed on a stage as big as the one baseball in Boston represents, could be yet another contract that the Red Sox front office will rue.