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What Red Sox' pursuit of Marcell Ozuna told us about J.D. Martinez

Rob Bradford
December 13, 2017 - 5:51 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- It was Wednesday afternoon's biggest news: Marcell Ozuna had been traded to the Cardinals.

Obviously, the reason for all the hub-bub at the MLB winter meetings was because, A. Very little has happened over the first three days at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, and B. Ozuna is a really, really good player.

And since the 27-year-old -- who can be a free agent after the 2019 season -- is such a valued commodity, it's only natural that he would also have been on the Red Sox' radar. Sure enough, according to Dave Dombrowski, the now-former Marlin was.

"We asked about him and they called me back beforehand, just to let me know that we were making it as a courtesy so we were in the mix enough to do that," the Red Sox president of baseball operations said. "When I say that because we have the DH spot open and we felt we could kind of slide guys around in that regard but we were never close to a trade. I don't even know what they eventually got. I know they got some upper-level pitching for him but yeah, we at least put our name in there. And not with the idea of trading one of our guys but to kind of rotate with the DH."

While it wasn't likely the Red Sox would be able to match what the Cardinals (or other teams) could give up for an outfielder who hit .312 with 37 homers and a .924 OPS in 2017, what was interesting was their willingness to move the trio of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in and out of the designated hitter spot.

While Ozuna is a superior defender than coveted free agent J.D. Martinez, the strategy might offer a glimpse into how they would allow the 30-year-old Martinez to still stay semi-active as an outfielder. Martinez would almost certainly man the DH spot more than the likes of Ozuna, but if the righty slugger requested to remain somewhat in the outfield mix during negotations, the notion of getting the starting outfield some rest represented an interesting proposition.

"I think it depends," Dombrowski said when asked about the plan. "Ozuna is a good enough bat that we would be willing to talk about something like that. We thought it would it would be something that would work. That’s the guy [Alex Cora] that would have to answer those questions and how he plans to do that. I could answer it, but it’s not my decision. It’s his decision. He’d have to be the one to answer that. We thought Ozuna, with the guys we had, we’d get them off their feet enough, but I will say I thought it was a long-shot we were going to get him because of what they were asking for us from our organization and knowing what the interest level was in him elsewhere. It was going to be hard for us to give them more than that. But I did want to at least inquire."

Earlier in the day, Martinez's agent, Scott Boras, said his client has shown no hesitation to draw back from playing in the field.

"I think he's comfortable in looking at the team and evaluating it. ... Doing what's best for the team he's with, he'd certainly adapt to any role," Boras said.

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