If J.D. leaves Boston, where might he go?

October 8th, 2019

As the World Series draws closer, so does one of the biggest decisions of the offseason: Will J.D. Martinez opt out of his contract with the Red Sox?

The star designated hitter has three years and $62.5 million left on his contract, which runs through 2022. But Martinez can also choose to give up that guarantee and become a free agent. He has until five days after the World Series to decide.

If Martinez opts out, he'd immediately become one of the top hitters on the free-agent market. The 32-year-old has hit .317/.392/.593 with a .985 OPS in two seasons in Boston while averaging 40 home runs. He has a 156 OPS+ since 2018, 56% better than league average, which is the fifth-best mark in MLB behind only Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, superstar teammate Mookie Betts and Alex Bregman.

With Martinez's decision looming, The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham broke down how Martinez opting out would impact both the Red Sox and the rest of the American League, including predicting the most likely suitors for his DH services. (He considers it unlikely that Martinez would go to a National League team, due to his limited defensive ability in the outfield.)

Here's a look at five teams Martinez might end up with if he leaves Boston to test the open market.

White Sox
Why they need him: For the splash
The White Sox went after both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado last offseason and ended up with neither. But Martinez is probably a better pure hitter than either of them, and the White Sox window could just be opening in 2020. The team is loaded with young MLB talent like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jiménez, Michael Kopech should be back from Tommy John surgery to join Dylan Cease and Lucas Giolito in the rotation, and top prospects like Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal could be coming up. Martinez would be the proven elite bat to anchor the lineup.

Blue Jays
Why they need him: To mentor Vladito
Martinez is an extremely studious hitter, and he's had a big influence on fellow Red Sox stars like Betts. The Blue Jays have some of the most exciting up-and-coming hitters in the game, led by the legacy duo of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. A veteran hitting guru like Martinez would no doubt help the development of two potential rising stars, an impact beyond what he does himself in the batter's box.

Why they need him: Making the leap
The Rangers stayed in the AL Wild Card race pretty late into the season this year. Maybe they're closer to the postseason than people thought and just need those extra few pieces for the final push. The team has a lot of established players already -- Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo are the top two hitters -- and Martinez would really give the lineup a wealth of experience. Even Texas' breakout starting-pitching duo of Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are both veterans.

Why they need him: To revitalize the team

Just looking at the standings, the Mariners aren't so close. But Jerry Dipoto is always willing to wheel and deal to try to rebuild the team. Maybe even more importantly, Martinez would give Seattle some star power. The Mariners lost one franchise icon, Ichiro Suzuki, at the beginning of the year; they're likely about to lose another, Felix Hernandez, who made an emotional goodbye start in front of the hometown fans. Martinez won't be a career Mariner or anything, but he's the caliber of player a fanbase can get behind.

Why they need him: Right-handed power

The Rays don't often spend big on free agents, and they spent 2019 plugging and playing a lot of different hitters into the DH spot, with good success. As a team, the Rays got a 131 wRC+ from the DH position -- offensive production 31% better than league average, fourth best among AL teams. So they have options. But they're also opportunistic buyers. Look at their signing of Charlie Morton, or their trades for hitters like Tommy Pham. Martinez is a prime opportunity. He's an elite right-handed power bat, and Tampa Bay didn't get a whole lot of right-handed power this year. Rays right-handed hitters hit 120 home runs this season, tied for 19th in the Majors. Their righties slugged a combined .415, ranking 21st. Making a play for Martinez is how a playoff team can get even better.

Others: In the Globe story, Abraham rules out teams with an established DH like the Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton), Angels (Shohei Ohtani), Twins (Nelson Cruz), A's (Khris Davis) and Indians (Franmil Reyes). He also doesn't think rebuilders like the Orioles, Royals and Tigers are close enough to go after a pricey veteran bat. But who knows? We've seen rebuilding teams make big free-agent plays in recent offseasons to try to jump back to relevance (like the Padres with Eric Hosmer). It's not just winning teams who sign marquee names. Martinez's skill could attract anyone.