For months, the Boston Red Sox patiently waited to snatch up the best available bat on the free agent market. Yesterday they pounced, landing J.D. Martinez with a front-loaded 5-year/$110 million deal. The slugger will join an already mighty lineup and surely pepper the Green Monster with doubles and scale it with home runs.
It’s easy to see this move as Boston’s response to the hated Yankees getting Giancarlo Stanton. And at first blush it seems as though Martinez is the store-brand answer to Stanton and Aaron Judge. But the reality is, production-wise, he’s in the same ballpark — just one that’s not been as brightly lit.
When Martinez came to the Detroit Tigers from the Houston Astros in 2014, at age 26, he had all of 24 career home runs to his name. A re-tooled swing and dedication to note-taking helped him bust out that year (.315/.358/.553 and 23 homers). He continued to improve his power numbers in 2015, blasting 38 homers and driving in 102 runs. Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign but did not have an adverse effect at the plate (.307/.373/.533).
Last year, Martinez smacked 45 homers in just 119 games, one every 9.6 at-bats. He once again eclipsed the 100-RBI mark. His OPS was north of 1.000. These are MVP-caliber numbers.
There’s no reason to believe he can’t replicate them, especially at hitter-friendly Fenway. Martinez has been one of baseball’s best secrets in recent years. Boston will change all that. Anchoring the Red Sox lineup will change that. The pressure will be unlike anything that’s come before. But Martinez was re-made for this very thing. He’s not the one that should be nervous. His proof is in his lumber.
Opposing pitchers on the other hand? That’s another story.