With less than a week to go before spring training officially opens, the top free-agent slugger remains on the market without a contract.
But it's not for lack of trying.
The Boston Red Sox reportedly have a five-year, $125-million offer on the table for J.D. Martinez, but he continues to hold out hope of landing a longer and more lucrative deal.
The market for Martinez is limited, with the Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks believed to be the only two teams in the running for his services. The Diamondbacks won't outbid the Red Sox, and there's little incentive for Boston to raise its offer in a bidding war with itself. So what other option does Martinez have if he doesn't want to sign in Boston and Arizona won't spend the money he desires?
It was reported Wednesday that he has discussed both long-term and short-term deals with the Diamondbacks, and it's possible he'll sign a one-year pillow contract and re-enter the market next season. But would that be the best course of action?
After the Tigers traded Martinez to the Diamondbacks for three average prospects at the non-waiver deadline, he went on a tear. He hit .302/.366/.741 with 29 home runs, 13 doubles, and 65 RBIs in 62 games. He couldn't have picked a better time to hit free agency. While that performance hasn't resulted in a bidding war - he's still likely to sign the largest contract of the winter - it's unlikely Martinez will be as dominant in 2018 as he was last season.
He'll be 31 years old next winter, and has played in at least 140 games just once in his seven-year career. Defensive metrics consider him a liability in the outfield. There's certainly a lot of risk in signing a one-year deal with that profile. What if he continues to struggle in the outfield? That would limit his market to essentially AL teams who want him to DH. What if he can't stay healthy? Who's going to commit long term to a player who's going to miss 40-plus games per year? Martinez hit the market at the perfect time this winter, and it would be a major gamble to think he could put together a better season next year.
Sure, the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers won't be handcuffed by luxury-tax issues next winter after resetting any penalties this offseason, but there's also going to be a much deeper talent pool for teams to choose from. Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Charlie Blackmon, Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Pollock, Evan Gattis, Brian Dozier, Adrian Beltre, and Marwin Gonzalez are all position players poised to be free agents next year. Even with plenty of money to go around, Martinez is going to be hard-pressed to find a number of teams willing to shell out more than $125 million when there are so many other players available.
No player has received more than $80 million this winter. Martinez's reported offer from the Red Sox is valued at $45 million more than that. If he really doesn't want to go to Boston, that's his right. But the offer is fair. It would be the fifth-richest contract ever handed out to a free agent in Red Sox history - a franchise flush with cash that has signed plenty of lucrative deals. With a $25-million average annual value - the same annual salary as Joey Votto and Giancarlo Stanton - Martinez would be the sixth-highest-paid position player in the majors. For a player who was released from the Astros just four years ago, a payday of $125 million was likely something he never thought was possible. Now, it might be the best payday he ever gets.