One week after agreeing in terms on a five-year, $110 million contract the Boston Red Sox finally have their man.
After a week of meticulously poring over the details of his physical, the team signed outfielder/designated hitter J.D. Martinez to a five-year contract through the 2022 season and held the long-awaited press conference in the dining room of JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
“You’re very thorough with all of your conversations,” said Dave Dombrowski, Red Sox president of baseball operations said of his discussions with super agent Scott Boras. “You’re in a spot where everybody’s not in one spot for your physical. J.D. did fly to Boston because not all doctors were here. Complete the language… to protect all sides.”
Before the press conference began, Dombrowski held up Martinez’s new Red Sox jersey, which adorns No. 28, his manager’s old number with the Red Sox.
With Martinez in the fold, the Red Sox now provides the new Sox manager the power hitter in the middle of the lineup to bolster an offense that was last in the American League in home runs in 2017. Martinez will likely hit cleanup to star as the designated hitter behind Hanley Ramirez and in front of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. The lineup could significantly deepen when Dustin Pedroia comes back in May from his offseason knee procedure.
“He’ll be in the 3 or 4 spot,” Alex Cora said. “This is a guy that not only can hit homers, but his ability to hit for average too, the way he barrels balls. He’s not only a home run hitter. He’s a complete hitter. We not only got better lineup-wise and on the field, but what he brings in that clubhouse and the way he prepares. I’m looking forward to him connecting with players, help young players, did an outstanding job with the D-Backs. We’ve been talking about it the last two months and now we’ve got a guy that believes in it and I know he’s willing to share information. I know that’s going to be an asset for us.”
As the week dragged on, there was concern about the medical details found in the physical for a player with a significant injury history, including knees in 2013, elbow in 2016 and a lisfranc ligament injury last season.
“I’m healthy,” Martinez said at his introductory press conference. “I’ve been healthy since May (2017) when I got back from DL. I’ve been ready to go since I got back.” J.D. Martinez.
Boras told reporters after the press conference that he and the Red Sox added a third opt-out clause for his client after the 2021 season, giving Martinez opt-outs now after the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. In return, the Red Sox have medical protection and relief written into the contract in the fourth and fifth seasons of the deal.
The Red Sox would receive relief in the fourth and fifth years of the contract if Martinez spends 60 days on disabled in one season or 120 days cumulative over the final two seasons. The injury would have to be specific to the lisfranc ligament injury and involve a specific joint in his foot.
“These negotiations are more of a cooperative venture because you’re dealing with medical (and) legal,” Boras said. “The goal is common, very mutual. We all wanted to execute an agreement that we all thought was in the best interest of a J.D. and the Red Sox.
“The idea of this is clarity,” Boras said. “You really have to go through every step of this and be very clear so that each of the parties understand the dynamics of what is clear medically, what is clear legally. That process took its course. There was good faith and intent throughout. It was not an adversarial process. It was a process of understanding. Through that, we were able to come to an accord.”
Monday was a long way from 2013, when the Astros released Martinez outright after just seven homers in 86 games with a .250/.272/.650 stat line.
“It’s a blessing. Thank God every day for it. Never would have thought it. I remember saying to everyone I’ll be back. Don’t worry. God’s (plan) led me down this road. Wouldn’t change it.”
“Was able to talk to J.D. in December and (Sunday), we finished our conversation,” manager Alex Cora said. “He will enjoy (Boston). Another great fit. Glad that it happened and happy and now we can move on.”
Martinez said he can’t wait to play at Fenway, where David Price told him he would fit right in. Price and Martinez were teammates in Detroit in 2014 and 2015.
“Football has Monday and Fenway is like every day is like Monday night,” Martinez said. “I trust my talent and … I know what I bring to the table. End of the day, part of the negotiation process. Here now and ready to get going.
“I’m hoping to do a lot of damage. That’s the game plan going in,” Martinez said.
Since the start of the 2014 season, Martinez’s .574 slugging percentage ranks second in Major League Baseball (min. 1,500 PA) behind only Mike Trout (.579). In that same time, Martinez ranks in the top 20 in the majors in several offensive categories, including batting average (15th, .300), OPS (7th, .936), home runs (10th, 128), at bats per home run (8th, 15.07), RBI (18th, 350), and extra-base hits (10th, 262). He is one of 20 major leaguers with at least 20 home runs in each of those four seasons, having hit 23 in 2014, 38 in 2015, 22 in 2016, and 45 in 2017.
Despite appearing in only 119 games, Martinez set career highs in 2017 with 45 home runs, 104 RBI, and a 1.066 OPS between the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks. Among players with at least 300 at-bats, he led the majors in at-bats per home run (9.60) and at-bats per RBI (4.15).
The right-handed hitter’s 45 homers ranked third in the majors behind Giancarlo Stanton (59) and Aaron Judge (52), as he joined Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., and Matt Williams as the only players ever with 40 or more home runs in 120 games or fewer. Martinez hit .303 (131-for-432) with 26 doubles, 85 runs scored, a .376 on-base percentage, and a .690 slugging percentage, also matching career bests in triples (3) and walks (53).
Acquired by Arizona on July 18, 2017, Martinez recorded 29 home runs and 65 RBI in only 62 games with the Diamondbacks. From July 19—his first game with Arizona—through the end of the season, his 29 homers ranked second in the majors. Martinez tied a major league single-game record by hitting four home runs on September 4 at Dodger Stadium, becoming the 18th player to accomplish the feat.
He had six multi-homer games in 2017, while his four games with at least five RBI were tied with Daniel Murphy for most in the majors. Martinez earned Player of the Week honors four times, the most ever by a player in a single season since the award’s inception in 1973.
Martinez was named National League Player of the Month for September of 2017 after batting .404 (40-for-99) and setting Diamondbacks franchise records for most home runs (16) and RBI (36) in any calendar month. He tied the NL record for most home runs in a September (also Ralph Kiner, 1949), falling one shy of the major league record held by Babe Ruth (1927) and Albert Belle (1995). Martinez went on to appear in each of the Diamondbacks’ four postseason games, going 3-for-4 with a home run in Game 1 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium.
In the past four seasons (2014-17), Martinez has hit .310 (138-for-445) with a 1.016 OPS against left-handed pitchers and batted .297 (441-for-1,484) with a .911 OPS versus right-handed pitchers. In that same time, the only other players with an OPS of at least .900 against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers (min. 500 PA against each) are Mike Trout, Joey Votto, and Paul Goldschmidt. Against lefties in 2017, Martinez batted .376 (35-for-93) with a 1.356 OPS.
Martinez has batted at least .275 with runners in scoring position in each of the last four years, including .317 (39-for-123) in 2017. He hit three grand slams last season, tied for second-most in the majors as one of only five players to reach that mark. Martinez has hit .318 (121-for-381) with 24 home runs and a .960 OPS in 104 career games against AL East opponents, and in 2017 he batted .409 (18-for-44) with five home runs versus the division. In seven career games at Fenway Park, he is 12-for-27 (.444) with two doubles.
Selected by Houston in the 20th round of the 2009 June Draft, Martinez has hit .285 (805-for-2,828) with an .857 OPS and 152 home runs in 772 major league games for the Astros (2011-13), Tigers (2014-17), and Diamondbacks (2017). In 2015, he was named to both the American League All-Star Team and the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Team as an outfielder. That season, he was also named one of three finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for right field.
In addition to his postseason experience with Arizona in 2017, Martinez played for Detroit in the 2014 ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles. He recorded an extra-base hit and an RBI in each of those three games, homering in Game 1 and Game 2 at Camden Yards. Born in Miami, Martinez played baseball for three seasons (2007-09) at Nova Southeastern University. He currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL.