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Sorry J.D. Martinez, Red Sox have right to be 'inflexible'

Rob Bradford
February 07, 2018 - 10:42 am

I already made the case this offseason that J.D. Martinez was worth an offer of more than five years. I stand by that. You pay for certainty, and, for me, that is what Martinez will represent in the middle of the Red Sox' batting order.

But just because you're worth something doesn't always mean that's what you're going to get. That's the reality of baseball and business.

This is what Ken Rosenthal wrote for The Athletic Tuesday: Martinez "is also is telling people that he is fed up with the Red Sox’s inflexibility and would rather sign with another club, sources say."

Perhaps. But what Martinez and his agent Scott Boras have to ask themselves is this: What exactly did the Red Sox do? They offered a free agent a five-year, $125 million deal. That's $25 million per season. In another offseason, perhaps that would be low. Not this offseason. And that's where the 30-year-old has to live his life, in 2018.

It's not the Red Sox' fault that the suitors for Martinez seem limited to Arizona, which doesn't seem in a position to get any more financially flexible than Boston. That's just how it is.

One thing that can't be ignored is the expectation of Martinez heading into the offseason. Just before reaching the world of free agency, he switched agents from Bob Garber to Boras. There was a reason for that: Boras got his guys paid, and some of those guys were 30-year-old outfielders. Shin-Soo Choo. Jayson Werth. Both got seven-year deals. It was surely part of the pitch. Making a U-turn back to a level that was surely never a conversation during that recruiting process probably doesn't seem worth it to the agent or the client.

As far as the Red Sox go, they (finally) understand how precious extra years can be when it comes to big-money deals.

While I can make the case that Martinez would produce in that sixth year, there are no certainties. I'm sure Ben Cherington and Co. were confident Hanley Ramirez's 2019 vesting option was a good idea. Now the Sox are on the verge of positioning themselves to not have Ramirez get 497 plate appearances to kick in another $22 million.

Nothing has changed in terms of the Red Sox needing a guy like Martinez. He hits home runs. He's good in the clubhouse. And he will take the pressure off the rest of the lineup to perhaps get some of these guys to their 2016 offensive levels. That's why they are offering him $125 million.

But they also know that there is a reasonable scenario that suggests the Red Sox can hang in there until the non-waiver trade deadline with the 2017 roster, 2.0. Dave Dombrowski managed to get some leverage at the low, low price of $13 million (Mitch Moreland), and that's good on him. That's adjusting to the landscape, and now it's Martinez' turn.

The Red Sox are going to be forced to find that big bat at some point (enter Edwin Encarnacion argument here), but the outfielder/designated hitter also needs to find a place to play in 2018, as well.

This could, and should, still get done. But let's not confuse frustration with common sense, which is exactly what Martinez and Boras might be doing when rolling their eyes at the Red Sox' inflexibility.

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