Red Sox agree to 2-year deal with reliever Martin

Joining Boston's revamped 'pen an 'easy decision' for right-hander

December 8th, 2022

BOSTON -- For Chris Martin, the decision to sign with the Red Sox represented a satisfying mixture of nostalgia and tradition.

Martin signed his two-year, $17.5 million contract with Boston on Thursday.

The righty reliever originally signed with the Sox on March 31, 2011, but that was a Minor League deal he signed right after pitching one season for the Grand Prairie Air Hogs, an Independent League team.

Though he pitched three years in Boston’s Minor League system before getting traded to the Rockies, Martin never got to put on the home uniform at Fenway Park. Now he will do so as a key cog in Boston’s revamped bullpen.

“I’ve been a part of the organization before. It’s kind of nice coming into a place with some people you’re familiar with,” said Martin. “The tradition is amazing, Fenway. It’s kind of gone full circle. It was a pretty easy decision for me.”

The additions of Martin, lefty Joely Rodríguez and closer Kenley Jansen are significant for a Boston bullpen that ranked 26th in the Majors with a 4.59 ERA while converting just 39 of 67 save opportunities.

“Obviously the bullpen is very important. I’ve been on some teams with some good ones,” said Martin. “They were explaining to me how many times they lost late in the games. When you lose that many games late, the record's not going to show. Those things can be fixed and those are actually, in my mind, minor things that can be fixed. Just go out there and throw zeroes and the bullpen feeds off each other and [can] get in a good groove and run with it.”

While Martin won’t get a chance to play with his former Minor League teammate, Xander Bogaerts, who is reportedly headed to the Padres on an 11-year, $280-million contract, he is confident the Red Sox will field a competitive roster in 2023.

“Losing Xander, a player like that, is a big loss. That was his decision to move on,” said Martin. “Obviously the offseason isn't over. I'm sure there's going to be some more additions that are going to help the team. Obviously the guys they got can play. You've got to get that championship mentality and go out there and compete as hard as you can every single day.”

Martin, 36, struck out 34 and walked just one in 24 2/3 innings after the Dodgers acquired him from the Cubs at the 2022 Trade Deadline. In 60 appearances overall in '22, the seven-year veteran fanned 74 and walked five in 56 innings and went 4-1 with a 3.05 ERA.

Yes, he is a control specialist.

“That’s just how I pitch,” said Martin. “I want to go out and compete and go right after guys. Just mainly try to pound the strike zone.”

Martin joins Jansen, John Schreiber and Matt Barnes as righties who are likely to pitch in high-leverage situations for manager Alex Cora. Rodríguez will be asked to get important outs from the left side.

In 2021, Martin was part of a World Series-winning bullpen with the Braves. He pitched twice in that Fall Classic against the Astros, allowing no runs in two appearances.

Martin made his MLB debut with the Rockies in 2014 and then pitched for the Yankees in ’15 before pitching two seasons in Japan.

“Going over to Japan really helped me just kind of clear my mind and just focus on baseball and not everything around me and what people are saying,” said Martin. “Just going out there and having success, you start to feel like you belong and keep building off of that. Just continue to keep throwing strikes and the odds will be in my favor.”

Martin returned to the Majors with the Rangers in 2018. It was in 2019 that he started his run of success as a dependable setup man. Martin’s improvement was a result of an improved walk rate and a diversified pitch mix.

According to Statcast data, Martin relied on six pitches last season, deploying a slider, sinker, cutter, curve, four-seamer and splitter. Many successful relievers use just two or three pitches, making Martin unique.

In his career, Martin has a 3.84 ERA with 34 walks and 261 strikeouts in 251 innings.

This figures to be the start of a busy offseason for Bloom, who is looking for upgrades at catcher and the starting rotation. Though star slugger Rafael Devers has one year left on his contract, the Red Sox would like to reach an extension with the third baseman.