The good news for the Boston Red Sox is that J.D. Martinez is still on the market. The bad news is that the options behind him are thinning out, and a failed pursuit of the free-agent slugger could leave the homer-starved club scrambling for help at an awkward time.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't known for his patience, and Martinez's reported potential willingness to wait until spring training to get the deal he's demanding could force Dombrowski to look at some contingency plans. Here are several options the Red Sox could pursue if they decide they're done waiting for Martinez.
The Red Sox could counter the Yankees' addition of Giancarlo Stanton with pitching rather than offense. They reset any luxury-tax penalties last year by not exceeding the threshold, meaning there's money to spend this offseason. Adding either Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta would give the Red Sox arguably the strongest rotation in the American League. Both are right-handed, and would help balance out a currently lefty-heavy group that consists of southpaws Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and Eduardo Rodriguez. Boston's starting pitching depth was tested last season when they were forced to add Doug Fister, and the club heads into 2018 with questions. Steven Wright is coming off season-ending knee surgery and could face a domestic violence suspension. Rodriguez is coming off knee surgery, while Price missed time with reoccurring elbow issues. Adding Arrieta or Darvish protects the club in 2018, and in the long term too. Pomeranz is a free agent after this season, and Price could be as well if he opts out of his deal. Both Arrieta and Darvish have received offers from at least five teams, so the Red Sox would need to decide whether to jump into the sweepstakes soon.
At the beginning of the offseason, the two biggest names linked to the Red Sox were Martinez and Hosmer. Boston appeared to take itself out of the Hosmer sweepstakes by signing Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13-million deal in December, but there's still a way the club could make a Moreland-Hanley Ramirez-Hosmer situation work. Hosmer would serve as the team's everyday first baseman, while Ramirez and Moreland could platoon at DH. It's obviously less than ideal when it comes to roster flexibility, since the Red Sox would have three first basemen on their 25-man roster - but platooning Ramirez would prevent him from reaching the number of plate appearances he needs this season for his $22-million option to vest. Hosmer, meanwhile, would give the club a somewhat young (he's entering his age-28 season), durable, strong defender, not to mention a 20-plus-homer bat. Hosmer's expected to cost more than $140 million, and he'd require the Red Sox to surrender a draft pick as compensation.
A number of free-agent power bats remain available, though there's a considerable drop-off after Martinez. Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, and Mark Reynolds are all coming off 30-homer campaigns and won't require long-term commitments. After that, there's Matt Holliday, Jose Bautista, Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, and Mike Napoli. All of these players come with flaws - whether it's age, production, or defensive deficiencies - but the Red Sox might feel they aren't far from contending with their current core, and adding another veteran is enough. Though they finished last among AL teams in homers and a number of their young stars had down years, the club still managed to score the 10th-most runs in the majors. Dombrowski could look to sign a veteran bat like Bautista, who owns a career .938 OPS at Fenway Park, and save his money for next year's star-studded class.
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