BOSTON -- While one significant hitter (Jay Bruce) has found a landing spot (Mets), the biggest bat on the free-agent market (J.D. Martinez) remains in limbo.This means the Red Sox are also still in limbo.• Hot Stove TrackerThe one glaring need Boston has this winter is a big bopper who
BOSTON -- While one significant hitter (Jay Bruce) has found a landing spot (Mets), the biggest bat on the free-agent market (J.D. Martinez) remains in limbo.
This means the Red Sox are also still in limbo.
• Hot Stove Tracker
The one glaring need Boston has this winter is a big bopper who can smash 35-40 homers. Martinez is the one player out there who can clearly provide that. If only it were that simple.
The Red Sox offered Martinez a five-year deal at some point in recent weeks, it has been widely reported. But Martinez and agent Scott Boras believe he can get a longer-term deal, which explains why he hasn't signed yet.
Who will blink first?
According to MLB Network contributor Jon Heyman, Martinez isn't in a blinking kind of mood at the moment. Citing "Miami acquaintances" of the outfielder, Heyman reported that Martinez is willing to remain unsigned into Spring Training in order to get what he believes is his market value.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are being similarly patient. Instead of rushing into a deal with a fallback option, they appear to be staying flexible so that they will be in position to sign Martinez if the two sides can ever find common ground.
However, the strategy doesn't come without its risks. The D-backs are also interested in signing Martinez after he provided them with monster production down the stretch last season. There could also be a mystery team or two lurking.
If, at the end of this whole saga, Martinez winds up signing elsewhere, the second-guessers will say that the Red Sox should have outbid the Phillies for Carlos Santana or the Mets for Bruce. That is a risk Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is willing to take. Having already acquired Martinez when he was with the Tigers, Dombrowski knows full well the value of the player he is trying to snag again.
There are still some second-tier hitters on the market who might be able to help the Red Sox, including Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda, both of whom reached the 30-homer mark last season.
If Dombrowski starts to feel Martinez is slipping away, perhaps he will pursue one of those hitters or re-explore the trade market. Or maybe he will just stay with what he has and try to upgrade by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The one thing Boston did do earlier in the offseason was re-sign first baseman Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13 million contract.
That deal meant that the Red Sox have their entire starting nine back from last season. If the season started right now, the Red Sox could field a competitive lineup featuring Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.
Though Boston's 2017 lineup received a fair share of heat for not being as productive as the '16 mash crew with David Ortiz, they still finished sixth in the American League in runs while winning the AL East for the second straight season.
With Devers on board for a full season in 2018, and Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hanley Ramirez all capable of having bounce-back years, that same lineup could move into the top five in runs and definitely hit more homers than the 168 that ranked last in the AL last year.
Though the Red Sox should field a competitive team no matter what, their best squad would probably be one that has Martinez hitting fourth.
And that's why Dombrowski continues to play the waiting game.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.