The Red Sox are among the teams showing interest in free agent designated hitter J.D. Martinez, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Martinez is a free agent after spending the past five seasons in Boston. The Red Sox opted not to offer him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.
The Red Sox don’t have a clear DH locked in for 2023, but there have been some concerns raised over the outfield defense of new signing Masataka Yoshida, and he has seemed like someone who could at least spend a decent chunk of time at the spot when he’s manning left-field. Martinez did not make a single outfield appearance in 2022, so bringing him back would be a vote of confidence in Yoshida’s ability to handle left on a day-to-day basis.
Martinez, 35, slashed .274/.341/.448 with 16 home runs over 596 plate appearances in 2022. While that was a bit of a drop from his best years, it was still good for a wRC+ of 119, or 19 percent better than league average. A year prior, Martinez hit .286/.349/.518 with 28 home runs and 43 doubles. While his strikeout and walk numbers remained steady between ’21 and ’22, his HardHit% dropped almost eight percentage points.
Originally developed by the Astros, Martinez spent three unsuccessful big league seasons in Houston before being released ahead of the 2014 season. He signed on with Detroit, and his career took off, as Martinez slashed a combined .300/.361/.551 with 99 home runs over three-and-a-half seasons with the Tigers. With the Tigers out of contention and Martinez in his walk year, they flipped him to the Diamondbacks at the 2017 deadline, and Martinez hit a staggering 29 home runs in 62 matches for Arizona, setting himself for a huge payday in free agency.
It was a lengthy free agency as Martinez batted away concerns over a foot injury the previous year, but in late February of 2018 Martinez signed with the Red Sox on a five-year, $110MM deal. Over the next five years in Boston, Martinez would mash 130 home runs and compile a .292/.363/.526 line. He’d also earn MVP votes in two of those seasons and go to the All Star game four times.
While Martinez’ career numbers speak for themselves, they have slowed down a touch as he’s aged, and his restriction to the DH spot makes his market hard to predict. Any number of teams, including the Red Sox, could do with a bat like Martinez’, but many teams prefer to keep the DH spot more open to cycle players through. As such, there’s not been a ton of reported interest in the veteran slugger. MLBTR predicted a two-year, $30MM for Martinez, and while the Red Sox are now the only team with reported interest, teams such as the Rays, Orioles, Twins, among others, could all have make sense as speculative fits.