Why is Martinez's big bat still out there?

January 18th, 2018

In a season marked by a surge in home runs, nobody other than and hit more of them than J.D. Martinez.
The outfielder hit 45 overall, including 29 for the D-backs to help Arizona get to the postseason for the first time since 2011, all while leading the Majors with a .690 slugging percentage (yes, higher than Judge and Stanton). Martinez was as big a difference-maker as any player acquired last summer -- so why does there seem to be such a small market for his services this offseason?
"The Phillies jumped to sign , moving their best prospect [] from first base to left field," one industry source said. "If you gave me a choice, I would take Martinez over Santana any day. So why is he still out there? The price point is the difference."
Hot Stove Tracker
Early in the offseason, word circulated that Martinez was seeking a $200 million deal. Did that number scare prospective teams away?
The Red Sox have seemed like the natural fit for Martinez all along; Boston, which ranked 27th in the Majors with 168 homers last season, needs a slugger in the middle of the lineup, and it can slot him into its designated-hitter spot with relative ease.
The two sides have been dancing the dance for two months, but when Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland on Dec. 18, it was Boston's way of telling agent Scott Boras that while the Sox may want Martinez, they won't be bullied into giving him more than they feel he's worth.

Boras, of course, has never been one to be bullied himself, so it's unlikely that he will allow Martinez to ink what he feels to be a below-market deal. So what is a fair-market deal in a market that has been colder than a Northeastern winter?
A report surfaced Wednesday that the Red Sox's offer stood at five years and $100 million, though a source told MLB.com the figures were "not accurate" -- an assertion echoed by Boras, who said the same to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

The inaccurate portion is unknown -- is it the years, the dollars or both? -- but Martinez is said to be seeking a deal of at least six years. While the $200 million number was thrown around early in the offseason, that seems far-fetched given the way the market has developed -- or not developed, as the case may be.
"If you're Boras, J.D. and the Red Sox, there has to be some creativity involved to get a deal done," the industry source said. "They're a perfect match. They're really the only match."
Martinez's offense is not in question; as noted, his .690 slugging percentage was the highest in the Majors last season, and he's averaged a .936 OPS during the past four seasons. There isn't a team in the game that wouldn't be better with Martinez hitting somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

That's not to say that Martinez doesn't come with some question marks, most notably his defense and durability. He has played more than 123 games only once in his career, when he appeared in 158 in 2015.
The defense could be a bigger issue, however. It seems that clubs are concerned that Martinez could be a liability in the outfield in the latter stages of a long-term deal, something that would certainly be an issue for National League teams.
So if Martinez's market is cut in half to 15 American League teams, and several of those teams are either in rebuilding mode, are not in financial position to hand out a nine-figure contract or have no apparent need for a power-hitting right fielder/DH, that leaves a limited market for the 30-year-old's services.
The Orioles and Blue Jays could certainly use Martinez, though neither seems prepared to pay the price. The same goes for the Rangers, who would be more likely to use big free-agent dollars to bring back rather than adding Martinez.
The Angels? They've already added , Zack Cozart, and Shohei Ohtani. The Mariners? They have penciled in as their DH, and they are prioritizing defense. The Astros? Martinez would be a luxury item for the defending World Series champs, whose lineup already seems set.
Boras and Martinez could also wait out the market, figuring a Spring Training injury might open a spot on a contending team the way it happened for Prince Fielder -- another Boras client -- when he signed a nine-year, $214 million deal with the Tigers in late January 2012 after tore his ACL.

Boston and Arizona remain the most logical landing spots, though the D-backs haven't been able to move Zack Greinke's contract, and they are likely watching their payroll closely with the knowledge that will be a free agent after 2019. Arizona might be lying in the weeds, hoping things fall apart with Boston and Martinez comes back to the desert at a reduced rate.
The reported five-year, $100 million offer seems light when you consider some recent notable comparisons. Josh Hamilton got five years and $125 million (an AAV of $25 million) from the Angels before the 2013 season, while got $110 million over four years ($27.5 million AAV) from the Mets prior to last season.

Perhaps a five-year, $125 million contract with an opt-out clause after two years is the answer, giving Martinez an opportunity to become a free agent after the 2019 season if he continues to mash over the next two seasons.
This much we know: Martinez should be hitting fourth for somebody by the time the season opens in late-March. Whether it's the Red Sox, the D-backs or some other team may not be known for a few more weeks.