LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It’s J.D. Martinez‘s turn in the winter meetings spotlight.
One day after Giancarlo Stanton came here for a news conference to announce his trade to the New York Yankees, Martinez was en route to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort on Tuesday evening to meet with potential suitors. According to a source, the Boston Red Sox were among the clubs scheduled to sit down with the free-agent slugger.
“We know who we want,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “There’s at least a pool of players that we want. I mean, I have the list in my pocket.”
Dombrowski reached into his blazer to reinforce the point, though he had no intention of sharing any secrets. There were signs, however, that the Red Sox prefer Martinez in their pursuit of a middle-of-the-order hitter and are just waiting for agent Scott Boras to get serious about negotiations.
For one thing, Dombrowski noted the Red Sox have Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers as potential run producers and don’t feel a specific need to sign another left-handed hitter (Martinez bats right-handed). For another, Dombrowski said free agency is the “ideal way” to get the hitter the Sox need and noted the importance of restocking the farm system after a series of trades over the past two years. Martinez is a non-tendered free agent and therefore would cost only money, not even a draft pick as compensation.
But of all the tea leaves that Martinez has emerged as the Red Sox’s No. 1 target, this might be the biggest: In response to a question about whether he takes into account the impact of Fenway Park’s unique dimensions on the potential performance of a free-agent hitter, Dombrowski brought up how difficult it is for right-handed batters to hit opposite-field home runs in San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The Giants happen to be a suitor for Martinez after missing out on trading for Stanton.
Told that his nugget about the Giants’ ballpark sounded like a selling point to Martinez, Dombrowski laughed.
“We didn’t put it together,” he said. “I just happened to read it.”
Martinez, 30, is coming off a season in which he smashed a career-high 45 home runs for the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks, including 31 after the All-Star break. Over the past four seasons, Martinez and Mike Trout are the only hitters in baseball to bat .300 with at least 125 home runs, 350 RBIs and a 140 adjusted OPS.
Last month, Boras hyped Martinez by labeling him “The King Kong of Slug.” It’s believed that Boras is seeking a $200 million contract for Martinez, and although that seems ambitious, he could be in line for a five- or six-year deal worth at least $25 million per season.
When he was the Tigers’ GM in 2014, Dombrowski signed Martinez for much less. Martinez had been released by the Astros and agreed to a minor league deal with the Tigers. In 2015 he agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract, and he signed a two-year, $18.5 million extension in 2016.
The Diamondbacks are interested in resigning Martinez, whom they traded for last season on July 18. In 62 games for Arizona, Martinez had one of the best salary drives of all time, batting .302 with 29 homers, 65 RBIs and a 1.107 on-base plus slugging percentage and helping the Diamondbacks clinch a National League wild-card berth.
Martinez is at the head of a slow-moving free-agent market, but the Red Sox might be ready to make a deal.
“I mean, I’d rather be done right now,” Dombrowski said. “I’d be sitting here making a couple of announcements. You know that you don’t unilaterally control that. Would much rather get things done quicker, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.”