J.D. Martinez is Turning Into One of Boston’s Best Signings Ever

In November of 2015, David Ortiz announced that the 2016 season would be his last. The long and treasured career of Boston’s beloved designated hitter will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Red Sox Nation, and his retirement left the Red Sox in a very unfamiliar position. For the first time since Ortiz joined the lineup in the 2003 season, the Sox were without a trusted power bat. The 2017 season gave us no answers, with Boston finishing 27th in home runs and 26th in slugging percentage. Now, a little over a quarter of the way through 2018, I think we have an answer. His name is J.D. Martinez, signed to a five-year, $110 million contract this past offseason. Not only has he answered this question, but J.D. Martinez has emerged as one of the best free agent signings in Red Sox history.

I know it’s still early. Martinez is not even halfway through his first season with the Red J.D. MartinezSox, and this could be premature. But I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. In 46 games, Martinez ranks second in the MLB in home runs (15), runs batted in (41), slugging percentage (.674), and OPS (1.073). He would lead the American League in batting average, slugging percentage, and home runs if it weren’t for teammate Mookie Betts.

J.D. Martinez In Comparison

Looking back on Boston’s major free agent signings, the track record is less than ideal. And failing to produce or live up to expectations in Boston is a proven formula for failure. Names like Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez come to mind.

I don’t need to go into detail on Sandoval, as that disaster is still fresh in the minds of this city. You may have managed to erase Carl Crawford from your memory by now. But let’s not forget his 7-year, $142 million monster of a contract that gave Boston fans so much hope after years of dealing with him in Tampa Bay. And now? Among the biggest busts in the history of the Red Sox. Adrian Gonzalez actually played well in his one full season with the Red Sox, but never quite fulfilled the expectations surrounding him. The list goes on and on. John Lackey, Rusney Castillo, and Josh Beckett join the list of players that never quite lived up to their price tag. Quick note of appreciation to the Los Angeles Dodgers for liberating us from Crawford, Gonzalez, and Beckett.

But now it’s time to forget all of that and relish in the present. J.D. Martinez is hitting as well as anyone in the MLB, and is currently on pace to break his home run record for a season. Paired with fellow slugger Mookie Betts atop the Red Sox order, Martinez has found, and embraced, his role in this lineup. And he’s earning every bit of his paycheck.

The formula to succeed as a Boston athlete has become pretty simple over the years. Just do your job. And Martinez is doing it as well as anyone.

Red Sox Can’t Let Ortiz Retire

David Ortiz came through again in Saturday’s 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays, swatting a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth before Craig Kimbrel blew the save. With each game that goes by it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Red Sox can’t let Ortiz retire after this season.

Ortiz is not only the best hitter on the Red Sox, but also one of the best hitters in baseballRed Sox Can't Let Ortiz Retire. He currently leads the majors in doubles (23), RBI (46), slugging (.720), OPS (1.146) and total bases (121). He’s having arguably the best year of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, and he’s a huge reason why the Sox are in first place.

While Big Papi has said repeatedly that this season will be his last, the Red Sox can’t let Ortiz retire. He’s too important to the team. His bat, leadership skills, and postseason experience are irreplaceable. It’s noble that he wants to walk away on his own terms, but Red Sox management has to do everything in its power to stop him.

How can Boston change its designated hitter’s mind? By offering him more money than he can possibly refuse. Every man has his price, and the Red Sox have the resources to blow Ortiz away. They could double his current salary of $16 million, which would make him the MLB’s richest position player next year. Most of that would be funded by Clay Buchholz’s $13.5 million team option, which Boston seems unlikely to sign if his move to the bullpen becomes permanent.

Ortiz has played for a long time and made a lot of money, but offering him a nice payday should make him reconsider. He’s been paid below market value for most of his career, so it would mean a lot to him to have one of the three highest salaries in baseball. If Ortiz equates dollars with respect, he’d have a hard time saying no.

Possible Replacements for David Ortiz in 2017

As almost everybody on the planet knows, David Ortiz will retire after this season. Big Papi is off to a hot start, which is great for all concerned. However, in professional sports, it’s never too early to look ahead, especially for front office personnel paid to shape David Ortizrosters and win championships. Therefore, Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox should already be eyeing potential replacements for Ortiz, even six months before his retirement.

Since 2003, Boston has used the designated hitter spot as a regular position, with Ortiz filling the role full-time. Elsewhere in the American League, however, that isn’t always the case. A lot of teams refrain from signing a specific guy to DH and instead use the spot as a way of giving older players rest. Yankees manager Joe Girardi calls it a “half day off,” with guys unburdened from playing the field. Joe Maddon was an early proponent of the idea when he rotated several Tampa Bay Rays in and out of the DH slot to keep the team fresh.

The Red Sox could definitely go down this route in 2017 and beyond. In Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, they have two older, more athletically challenged players who could use the additional rest that comes with DH-ing every few days. Of course, either of those players could also benefit from succeeding David Ortiz in taking on the role full-time, especially with the emergence of Travis Shaw giving the front office added versatility.

Yet, Boston is a star town, and the Red Sox have always enjoyed a cast of power hitters. The future is pretty murky when it comes to Sandoval and Ramirez, so Dombrowski should at least consider other options. Also, it’s worth noting that we’re talking about replacing David Ortiz, not some ordinary veteran. Papi is one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history, so I believe his heir should possess similar star power.

In all reality, the Red Sox aren’t going to trade for a designated hitter. The obvious lack of any defensive value from that position means that giving up a prized prospect simply isn’t worth it. However, if the front office could simply spend money on a top hitter for the position, there could be tremendous upside there.

So, who is available on the open market? Well, the main sluggers who stick out in the forthcoming free agent class are Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, the twin anchors of a potent Toronto Blue Jays lineup. Sure, the former will be 34 next season, and the latter 35, but that’s still considerably younger than David Ortiz. Besides, both Encarnacion and Bautista are still exceedingly productive. They combined to slug 79 homers and drive in 225 runs last year, and both love hitting at Fenway Park. Other free agent options include Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Mark Trumbo, although not all of those veterans figure to be healthy and productive for much longer.

Therefore, if Dombrowski chooses to employ another full-time DH once David Ortiz rides off into the sunset, he should definitely target one of the Blue Jays’ core sluggers. The sight of either Bautista or Encarnacion in a Red Sox uniform, solely focusing on hitting every day as a full-time DH, would be scary for the league and incredibly fun for Boston fans. It would also weaken a division rival, and ensure that there will be little decline in production from a position this franchise helped revolutionize.