J.D. Martinez deal has exceeded all expectations

·4 min read

Jan. 25—When J.D. Martinez signed with the Red Sox in 2018, he was viewed as the missing piece of a championship puzzle and a sound investment in the club's future.

As it turned out, he was that and a whole lot more.

The Martinez signing has worked out better than anyone could have imagined. The veteran slugger not only helped lead Boston to the 2018 World Series title, but his studious approach in the batting cage has rubbed off on teammates and helped elevate the performance of those around him.

Best of all for the Red Sox, Martinez has produced while also opting to play out the entirety of his original contract, something that would have seemed inconceivable when he first arrived.

When Martinez signed for five years, $110 million at the start of spring training in 2018, the deal was immediately viewed as a steal. Martinez had initially sought a seven-year deal worth closer to $200 million, but his free agent market never materialized and then-Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski was rewarded for his patience.

Given how that offseason played out, it was widely presumed that if Martinez performed up to his standards he would take advantage of the opt out provisions in his contract and test the market again.

Martinez kept up his end of the bargain. Through four seasons he's been a three-time all-star while batting .297 with 114 home runs, 361 RBI and a .917 OPS. Yet despite that production, unforeseen circumstances arose that made sticking with his old deal in Boston the safest call.

First was the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically shortened the 2020 season and completely threw off Martinez's normal hitting routine. Martinez was never able to find his rhythm and his production fell off a cliff, so opting out to seek a new deal after a down year wouldn't have made sense.

Then came last season, when Martinez returned to form and helped lead the Red Sox back to the playoffs. Now Martinez had a real decision to make. He could opt out and seek a bigger deal, but doing so still came with risk due to the uncertainty caused by the looming expiration of baseball's collective bargaining agreement.

Martinez opted to stick with the sure thing.

Now 34, Martinez will make $19.375 million in 2022 and should have a much wider market for his services when he hits free agency next winter. It's expected that the new CBA will include a universal designated hitter, which could double his pool of suitors as National League clubs look to take advantage and bulk up their lineups.

Martinez would surely be welcomed back in Boston with open arms too, but whether or not this is his last season with the Red Sox, he will undoubtably go down as one of the best free agent signings in club history.

Sox add international stars

This past week marked the start of the 2022 international signing period, and the Red Sox added a handful of highly touted prospects. The headliners were Freili Encarnacion and Freymi De Leon, both shortstops out of the Dominican Republic, and Johanfran Garcia, a catcher from Venezuela.

Encarnacion is the most highly regarded, ranking No. 19 on MLB Pipeline's international prospect rankings. The 16-year-old boasts a tantalizing combination of athleticism and power and reportedly signed for $1.1 million. De Leon, age 17, ranks No. 50 but signed for $1.2 million, and Garcia, the 17-year-old younger brother of Red Sox prospect Jhostynxon Garcia, ranks No. 34 and signed for $850,000.

Winter warm-up

This week the Red Sox will hold a Winter Warm-up minicamp in Fort Myers for 28 prospects, none of whom are on the 40-man roster and are therefore not affected by the ongoing lockout. The program will consist of daily strength training, conditioning and off and on-field instruction to help prepare for Spring Training and the upcoming season.

Several of the club's top prospects will take part, including recent first-round picks Triston Casas and Nick Yorke, both of whom were recently ranked in the top third of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list. Other notable participants include Alex Binelas and David Hamilton, both of whom were recently acquired in the Hunter Renfroe trade, and power-hitting infielder Blaze Jordan.

Tickets now on sale

However optimistic it may seem given the circumstances, the Red Sox are proceeding under the assumption that all games will be played on schedule. Tickets are now on sale for spring training and regular season games through June 1 and can be purchased through the club website.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.