Photo Credit: Ashley Kane
What does the addition of the much needed slugger mean for the Red Sox beyond 2018?
It finally happened.
After an entire off-season of rumors and public stand-off’s, the Boston Red Sox got their man. JD Martinez has been mentioned by well regarded analysts and media members as the missing piece to a World Series run, and after the ink dried on the contract, that sentiment was echoed by the front office.
The Red Sox signing of Martinez, combined with bounce-back seasons from Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and others will help fuel the 2018 Red Sox. In addition, full seasons from Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez, and the continued development of Andrew Benintendi will surround the newly acquired slugger with plenty of talent.
Dave Dombrowski undoubtedly had to counter the moves from around the American League. The Yankees added the reigning NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, and his 59 HR’s to a lineup that led MLB in HR in 2017. The defending champs in Houston have fortified a rotation that was already considered among the best in the game by adding former Pirates’ ace, Gerrit Cole. The Angels added former All-Stars Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler, along with 2-way rookie sensation, Shohei Ohtani, to a team that hung around the Wild Card race until the season’s final week.
The Red Sox are contenders. Winners of the AL East the past two seasons, there was immediate pressure on the front office to make some big moves after back to back playoff exits in the ALDS.
The first move was to shake up the chemistry on the field and in the clubhouse, with John Farrell bring replaced by first time skipper, Alex Cora.
The next move was to bring in a legitimate power presence to a lineup that finished dead last in the league in home runs in 2017. JD Martinez and his 1.066 OPS is now firmly in the middle of the lineup. Make no mistake, there is a window here to contend. The details of the Martinez contract show a heavily front-loaded deal ($25M per season in 2018-19), with an opt-out after the 2019 season. That, combined with the looming free agency of all-world closer, Craig Kimbrel, after the season, and staff ace Chris Sale the season after, put some added pressure on this team to take the next step toward a championship immediately.
Additionally, the young “Killer B’s”- Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and Xander Bogaerts- are all into their arbitration years and will head into free agency in the not-too-distant future.
Team President, Dave Dombrowski, has made moves to shape this team into a World Series contender in each offseason since his arrival. He’s traded away premium prospects to acquire impact pitching – Kimbrel, Sale, and Drew Pomeranz. Dombrowski has also spent big in free agency, shelling out nine-figure deals to the top starting pitcher on the market after the 2015 season, David Price, and to the top power bat this offseason in Martinez.
While the jury is still out on Price, and Martinez has yet to take an at-bat for the Sox, the glaring downside to signing players in their thirties to long term deals for hundreds of millions of dollars is that it cripples the financial flexibility needed to improve the team moving forward.
With a now thin farm system, and greater penalties for exceeding the luxury tax threshold, 2018 may be the best shot that Dombrowski has at bringing the World Series trophy back to Fenway.