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 Nation Loves To Hate John Farrell

Look at any comment thread beneath a Red Sox article and you can see how fans love to hate John Farrell. They call for his ouster when the Red Sox are losing. They demand his head when they lose badly. Red Sox Nation is even lukewarm towards him when the Red Sox are winning. So why all the hate?

I’ll admit I’m one of those writers who has gone back and forth on Farrell. Some days I’llhate john farrell defended his honor. There’s no doubt Red Sox Nation gets worked up sometimes and says irrational things. Then there’s other days when I read about low morale in the Red Sox clubhouse and assume Farrell’s the source. But is Farrell a consistent manager or do fans and writers just love to hate him?

Bill “Spaceman” Lee once shared his opinion about fickle Boston fans. The pilgrims came here from England and decided to settle in this area where it gets bitter cold in the winter and the snow is often brutal. Facing this hard weather year and year has turned Bostonians into a moody brood who love to hate, and hate to love. So is Farrell a victim of this New England attitude or is he really that bad at managing?

Do Fans Hate John Farrell Or Just Every Red Sox Manager?

Farrell led the Red Sox to a World Series win in 2013, followed by two last-place seasons in 2014 and 2015. The Red Sox won a playoff spot last year but it was more of a limp into the post-season than a sprint. But was that Farrell’s fault? It’s no secret that injuries plague the Red Sox, especially their pitching staff. Farrell did, however, make some questionable decisions last year when he continued to insert Clay Buchholz after it was clear he didn’t have what it took to win ballgames. Then there’s his questionable use of inexperienced pinch hitters.

So do fans love to hate John Farrell? Well, I’ll admit that this writer does. He’s an easy target the same way a teacher is for students when they get poor grades. Is it because he or she is a bad teacher, or is it because the students didn’t study hard enough? You don’t have to look far to find Red Sox players who don’t hustle as much as they should (cough cough Pablo Sandoval). So is that Farrell’s fault? No.

But should Farrell do more to motivate his players? Yes. If not, it’ll eventually cost him his job.

The Pablo Sandoval Nightmare Is Over

The Boston Red Sox designated Pablo Sandoval for assignment on Friday, July 14th, marking the end to a long and dismal performance by the third baseman. This move means the Red Sox will have to swallow the remaining $49 million left on Sandoval’s contract. That $49 million will be the second largest dead contract in MLB history, behind Josh Hamilton. While this is bad news for Dave Dombrowski, it’s music to thepablo sandoval nightmare ears of Red Sox Nation. The Long Pablo Sandoval nightmare is finally over.

Many wondered if the five-year, $95 million contract the Red Sox offered Sandoval was too excessive. He played well in San Francisco, helping the Giants win multiple World Series titles. After a dismal 2015 debut season though the Red Sox started having second thoughts. His .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 2015 concerned many. Starting the 2016 season with a .000 batting average in three games, followed by season-ending surgery, concerned everyone. It wasn’t just Sandoval’s poor performance at the plate though.

The Sandoval Nightmare Was Self-Created

Posting to Instagram during a June 2015 game caught him the ire of management and the front office. Reporting to spring training in 2016 overweight made him the subject of ridicule. What little respect he still had going into the 2016 season quickly evaporated when his belt buckle exploded during a game in Toronto. Sandoval soon went on the DL for the remainder of the season. While a much slimmer Sandoval returned for the 2017 season, injuries and apathy soon got the better of him. Finally, on July 14th, the Red Sox ditched Sandoval after hitting .212 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 32 games.

Sandoval was a problem for many reasons. He clearly didn’t like it here in Boston. His effort was mediocre at best. His tepid focus and dedication hurt the team. But despite the huge amount of money the Red Sox still owe him, some fans think it’s worth getting rid of him.

I certainly do.

The Red Sox Dead Weight Needs To Go

The Red Sox are within a game or two of capturing first place. It’s miracle in its own right if you consider the Red Sox dead weight. Pablo Sandoval isn’t panning out. Sandy Leon’s flash in the pan hitting last year isn’t carrying into this season. Rick Porcello leads the league in losses at 9. If the Red Sox are going to capture first place they need to cut some of their dead weight and they need to do it yesterday.

Red Sox Dead Weight

The Red Sox are playing great baseball. Josh Rutledge is holding his own at third. Andrew Benintendi is a contender for the Rookie of the Year Award. Mookie Betts is leading the Red Sox with 12 homers. Chris Sale is as masterful as ever. But with the Red Sox dead weight that consists of Sandoval, Porcello, and Leon, it’s hard for the team to play better, and they certainly can.

The Red Sox Are Winning the Late-Inning Games

The Red Sox were among the league leaders last year with runners left on base and runners left in scoring position. It seemed like the Red Sox gave up once they fell behind. We’re not seeing that attitude this season. Back-to-back walk-off wins against Philadelphia last week proved that the Red Sox can play under pressure. What’s even better is that players like Benintendi are the ones coming through in the clutch.

Red Sox Dead Weight Is Dragging The Team Down

It’s not always easy to cut dead weight. Players like Pablo Sandoval and Rick Porcello have such big contracts that it’s hard to find another team that’ll pick them up. In other instances no one wants them. But the Red Sox should just rip off the band-aid and shed these players before the All-Star break. Keeping them around is like putting raisins in oatmeal cookies. They just get in the way.

There’s a great scene in the film Moneyball where Billy Bean, played by Brad Pitt, goes against expert advice and cuts a number of players, including Jeremy Giambi. These players weren’t panning out. They were dead weight on the field and a distraction in the clubhouse. While the plot of Moneyball and the reality of the Red Sox are completely different, it’s a lesson that the Red Sox could learn something from. The front office needs to stop coming up with excuses and make some difficult decisions.

Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, Represent the Future at Third

Michael Chavis and Rafael Devers are not household names in Red Sox Nation yet, but they very well could be soon.

Michael Chavis

When the team traded Travis Shaw and Yoan Moncada last offseason, they were ultimately committing to Pablo Sandoval to play third base. Especially considering it was their originally plan when they signed him to a five-year $90-million-dollar deal. Although with nagging injuries to both Sandoval and Marco Hernandez, Deven Marrero has had the most reps so far this season.

Despite upside in many or all of these players, none of them seem to be a long term plan. Rather, the Red Sox have two future options developing in the minors.

Michael Chavis and Rafael Devers have the potential to be All-Stars. But their young age means they’re a few years away from making a splash.

With Salem, Chavis is hitting .357 in 41 games with 12 home runs. His OPS is 1.130 as of May 31, a truly elite number for a minor leaguer. Chavis already has more RBI (41) in as many games with Salem than he did in 74 games with Greenville last year.

The following scouting report on his hitting mechanics says Chavis has “a short, compact swing. Wide base in stance. Starts slightly open and utilizes a toe-tap timing device. Quick hands and loose at the plate. Possesses plus bat speed. Tracks the ball well. Swing can get long, creating a hole on the inner half. Developing approach and pitch recognition skills. Potential solid-average to plus hit tool.”

His baseball IQ and coachability is also an upside.

However, Chavis hasn’t been promoted to Portland yet because the Sea Dogs have a superstar of their own. Rafael Devers is also and third baseman. And this season, he has been on fire as well.

As of May 19, Devers was hitting .325 – but has since cooled off a little to a humble .288 average. Regardless, he has been a driving force in the Portland offense, slashing .288/.348/.497 in 43 games.

Bottom Line

Both players are obviously too young to make an impact in Boston this season. It’s arguably better for their development to get at-bats in the minors. Some may make comparisons to Andrew Benintendi. But let’s not forget he also played two years of NCAA baseball in the SEC.

Chavis and Devers, on the other hand, turned pro at high schools ages. Therefore, they have needed extra minor league time to develop. If given the chance to mature properly and not be rushed, one or both of these players could occupy the hot corner at Fenway soon.

What Are The Red Sox Third Base Options?

Since the days of Mike Lowell, the Boston Red Sox third base situation has been in a constant state of change. First were Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis. There was promise of Will Middlebrooks and, briefly, Jose Iglesias. Next came the Xander Bogaerts experiment and the Pablo Sandoval signing, followed by the Travis Shaw rise and fall.

red sox third base

This season, it’s been even more of a revolving door. After an impressive spring, Pablo Sandoval got his job back. When Sandoval was injured in late April, Marco Hernandez received some playing time. Then when Hernandez went down, journeyman Josh Rutledge got the opportunity. Since his struggles, however, former top draft pick Deven Marrero has been on the field. All of these injuries and slumps inconveniently happened while the original backup, Brock Holt, is recovering from vertigo.

In addition, the offensive and defensive production at third base for the Red Sox leaves a lot to be desired no matter who is on the field. Obviously, some of this is due to their inexperience, but when a contending team like the Red Sox needs consistent production, ironically changes tend to be made.

Currently, the Red Sox do not even have a third baseman who qualifies with enough at-bats to be ranked for batting average. The only players remotely close are Rutledge and Sandoval, who are batting .281 and .213 respectively. Sandoval, if healthy, would be third-to-last in the AL in batting average as of today. In the field, Hernandez and Sandoval rank in the top ten in errors committed, despite only playing in a combined total of 23 games.

Current Red Sox Third Base Options

So who will end up being the answer at third base? One could argue it will be Sandoval when he returns from the disabled list simply because he was the starter. It most likely will not be Rutledge or Hernandez full-time because they are just utility infielders by trade.

If not Sandoval, the Red Sox are left with few options. They could stick with Marrero because of his sound defense, but lose pop in the lineup. Considering they are already last in the American League in home runs, that is not a good idea.

Another option would be to ride it out until the trade deadline, see what Panda has to offer, then try to acquire somebody like David Freese, Danny Valencia, or even free-agent Brett Lawrie or old friend Will Middlebrooks.

The last option is unlikely but possible. Top infield prospect Rafael Devers is currently hitting .333 with a .403 SLG and a 1.007 OPS. He only has 4 errors in 27 games at Portland as well.

Ultimately, Dave Dombrowski will need to make a decision soon – as the Red Sox struggle to find offensive consistency.