The Red Sox are coming off another good season, but one that ultimately fell short. There are many factors that play into why, but the lineup is a big one. The Red Sox lost legend David Ortiz, and didn’t replace his bat. As a result, the lineup faltered. This offseason they need to rectify the situation.
Red Sox Lineup
Without the presence of David Ortiz in the lineup this season, many players regressed. They may have been pressing more to try and fill the void. In past seasons, pitchers didn’t want to face Big Papi, which gave the other batters better pitches to hit. This cannot be understated. Mookie Betts dropped off considerably, most notably his batting average. Xander Bogaerts went from a near .300 average with 21 home runs, to .273 with 10 homers. After hitting 30 home runs in 2016, Hanley Ramirez may have been the one most expected to fill the void left by Ortiz. He disappointed, and only batted .242. The Red Sox need a legitimate power hitter, a threat to go yard every time.
As a team, the Red Sox finished 27th in the league in home runs. Fenway Park is a hitters park, and while the Red Sox have often taken advantage, they failed to this season.
The Red Sox finished 22nd in the majors in the all-important OPS category. OPS is a combination of on base percentage and slugging percentage, it combines two very important skills. The Red Sox need to bring these offensive numbers back up. They aren’t a 2nd division team.
How to improve the lineup
Last season, the Red Sox could have signed Edwin Encarnacion to replace Big Papi. It seemed like the perfect fit, but the Red Sox passed. Passing on Encarnacion cost them this year as he hit 38 home runs, a number that would have probably increased playing at Fenway. They cannot make the same mistake in 2018.
A fix this year could come in the form of JD Martinez. He may not provide the same presence as Big Papi, but honestly, who could? Martinez’s power production would be with the best of them though. Adding him to the fold gives the Sox the home run threat, run producer in the middle of the lineup and makes things easier on the rest of the lineup. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and company will see better pitches to hit if Martinez is looming on deck and producing. The addition would also alleviate some pressure on them. Two years ago, the Red Sox were 9th in the Major Leagues in home runs and first in OPS. Yes, they dropped from 1st in OPS to 22nd. Add that big bat, and they should be back in the top ten.
Who is JD Martinez?
JD Martinez began his career as a 4th outfielder for the Houston Astros. He was average for his three seasons in Houston before being cut prior to the 2014 season. He worked hard to revamp his swing, and it showed in his results. After he was scooped up by the Tigers (by none other than Dave Dombrowski), Martinez has been one of the better hitters in the league. He stays under the radar, but Martinez can rake. He has batted .300, with 128 home runs and a .936 OPS. Even with missed time, that’s an average of 40 home runs per season. He is 10th in the Majors in home runs and 6th in OPS during that 4 year span.
This season, Martinez had a career year at the age of 30, hitting 45 home runs despite missing roughly the first month and a half of the season. After being traded to Arizona, Martinez hit 29 home runs in 62 games. While he may not get recognition nationwide, JD Martinez is a top power hitter.
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What will it take?
Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are comparable players who signed free agent deals in the past few years. Both players easily surpass 20 million per season. I’d take Martinez over either of them personally, with 25 million dollars per year being a reasonable expectation to shell out for his services.
The question becomes how many years to give him. Ideally a 4 year deal around 100 million, but it will likely take a 5th year to get it done. If the Red Sox can get him for 5 years at that rate, a 5th year shouldn’t stand in the way. He’d be 35 at the end of his contract, but wouldn’t be like another Albert Pujols situation in Anaheim. For the production he has been putting up over the last 4 seasons, 5/125 is worth it. Will the market command even more, push him to 150 million? There have been reports that the up and down Eric Hosmer is looking for an obscene 200 million dollar deal. No thank you.
Where does he play?
Lou Gorman once famously passed up trading for batting title champion Willie McGee in the heat of a pennant race because he asked the question: where would he play? Gorman has been second guessed ever since.
Barring a trade, Martinez would play designated hitter. Hanley has one season left on his contract, he isn’t here for the long run, and he hasn’t been that good. Martinez could be the primary DH, while Hanley splits time at first base with Mitch Moreland (back for another season?) or Sam Travis. Hanley primarily played first base in his only good season in Boston to date. Martinez could occasionally play in the outfield to keep him up to speed, and give others a rest day. On those days, Hanley could slide to DH to get out of the field, and rest his aching shoulder from those strenuous throws he’d be making at first base.
The Red Sox might have an inside track on acquiring Martinez that some other teams do not. Dave Dombrowski is the one that gave JD Martinez another chance in Detroit following his release from the Astros. It would make sense for JD Martinez to be interested in playing for Dombrowski again.
The Red Sox have an opening for him, they have the need, all that is left to do is sign him.