Inbox: Will J.D. return to Red Sox in 2020?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Boston fans

October 21st, 2019

Questions regarding J.D. Martinez’s contract, the upcoming World Series, the general manager search, the health of the starting rotation and more are answered in the latest Inbox.

What’s the status of Martinez? In my opinion, he should be the top priority this offseason.
-- @FacetheFacts15

Martinez can do nothing and his contract with the Red Sox ($23.75 million) will be guaranteed for next season. Or he can exercise his opt-out clause within five days of the World Series ending and become a free agent. He would also collect a $2.5 million buyout from Boston in the process, as per terms of the contract.

If Martinez opts out, I don’t believe he will be back with the Red Sox. They’ve made it clear they need to cut some payroll. If Martinez leaves, they will bank on Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi to carry the offense. They will also look for some other affordable bats on the open market.

I agree that Martinez would be a huge loss. But I think the Red Sox are better positioned in 2020 to have a strong offense without him than they were in ’17, when Betts, Bogaerts, Benintendi and Devers were three years younger.

When was the last time the World Series pitching matchups were this good? You have two former Cy Young Award winners, and also this year’s probable Cy Young Award winners in both leagues. And they are all pitching well.
-- Mike O.

Great point. The Astros have Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. The Nats have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. I looked up every World Series in the 21st century. The only Fall Classic that matches this one in terms of the caliber of starting pitchers on both sides is 2001.

The Yankees had Roger Clemens (that year’s American League Cy Young Award winner), and also Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. The D-backs had Randy Johnson (that year’s National League Cy Young Award winner) and Curt Schilling (who was the second-best pitcher in the league after Johnson). That series lived up to the hype and more, going seven games, with Arizona coming out on top. Let’s hope this year’s matchup lives up to it.

Will the long wait between the NL Championship Series and the World Series affect the Nationals and their chance at a championship?
-- @MadKingTylor

It is a valid concern. We saw it in dramatic fashion with the Rockies in 2007. They had won 21 of 22 games after sweeping Arizona in the NLCS. But they had a full eight days off before facing the Red Sox in the World Series, and they got swept. By contrast, Boston and Cleveland went to seven games in the ALCS. The Sox had just two days off before the Fall Classic. However, this Washington team has much better pitching than that Colorado team, and that could help to overcome the rust factor.

Do you think the Red Sox are holding off on naming a new GM because they have targeted somebody with the Astros or Nationals? Or are they waiting for the end of the World Series?
-- Bill B., Boston

I’m not necessarily sure they have targeted someone with the Nats or Astros, but it could be the reason for the delay in naming a GM. MLB discourages teams from making any big announcements during the playoffs, and in particular, the World Series. However, there haven’t even been whispers in the media about who the next leader of baseball ops will be, which makes me think they still aren’t close to naming one.

Do you think one of the three big starting pitching contracts -- those of Chris Sale, David Price or Nathan Eovaldi -- could be traded this offseason to make room for Betts or Martinez?
-- Ben G.

This is clearly not the offseason to trade Sale. You’d be getting 50 cents on the dollar, given the uncertainty with his health heading into next season. Ditto for Eovaldi with the season and injury problems he had. If they are to trade a high-priced starter, I believe it will be Price, no pun intended. However, the Sox would have to eat a good chunk of salary for this to become a reality.

How much does community service figure into a team's decision to hang on to a player? Without mentioning names, I'm curious as to whether a player's desire to do good in his community, give back and be nominated for an award goes into the calculus come re-signing time.
-- Erick W., Brooklyn, N.Y.

I think it goes into how much the club desires to bring that player back. We saw this with Tim Wakefield for many years. However, Wakefield never went for top dollar on the open market, and he always prioritized maintaining his roots in Boston. In a vacuum, the Red Sox do want Brock Holt back both because of what he means on and off the field. But they won’t overpay for him because of the latter. As a free agent, Holt has the right to maximize his dollar value. If that winds up being his top priority, he might move on depending on what the market it.

Which starting pitchers will be healthy when pitchers and catchers report?
-- Sean C.

The hope is that everyone will be healthy. But until we get a more expansive update on Sale, there’s no way of knowing how healthy he is right now and how healthy he will be for the start of Spring Training. I don’t think there’s any concern about the health of Price or Eovaldi at this point.

How likely is it that we see Bobby Dalbec hit 30 homers for a random NL team next year?
-- Larry, Massachusetts

Sounds like a thinly-veiled reference to Travis Shaw. Come on, the Brewers aren’t that random! Seriously, the Red Sox aren’t in the position to be trading prospects right now. Instead, they are trying to add them. I don’t think Dalbec is going anywhere.