Giving credit and/or believing in this Red Sox team is something I rarely do. However, there is one member of the team that deserves all of the credit he is getting and then some. Back in the offseason, J.D. Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million deal to play in Boston. At the time, many thought this deal was another bad overpay by the Boston front office.
Carl Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, and David Price come to mind when fans think of some of the most regrettable and overpaid contracts in Red Sox history; however, the list goes even further than that. John Lackey had a 4.40 ERA and a 6.41 ERA in his first two seasons before missing the entire third season due to injury. The only saving grace for Lackey was his 2013 postseason performance.
People may have also forgotten the Daisuke Matsuzaka deal, in which the Red Sox paid out $52 million in a contract and another $51 million in a posting fee to his Japanese team. Matsuzaka had two very good seasons in Boston, before completely falling off, posting a 5.53 ERA in his last four seasons combined, which were also shortened by a plethora of injuries.
The list goes on, with players such as Rusney Castillo (6 years, $72.5 million), Edgar Renteria (4 years, $40 million), and J.D. Drew (5 years, $70 million). All were members of the big pay/small production club in Boston. With the hefty number of players on this list, it’s hard to find a big Red Sox signing in the last decade that had actually played off. Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino are the only two that come to mind, but they were bargains.
These signings are what brought so much skepticism into the J.D. Martinez signing. After refusing to take initial offers of $80-$90 million, and holding out into spring training, an all-too-familiar feeling came back to Boston. A man who takes advantage of the deep pockets of Red Sox ownership, only to come in and give a sub-par performance.
In the case of J.D. Martinez, I’ll be the first to admit that I was as skeptical as anyone. A thirty-year-old with an injury history, only about a few years of major success and trying to get the most money possible screamed another signing bust. However, while Martinez started slow, he has been nothing but a complete success in Boston thus far.
In his first season in Boston, J.D Martinez has already far surpassed expectations. With still a month to play, the righty has broken his career single-season RBI total, has his second-highest home run total, best batting average and highest WAR. He has also only missed eight games, most of which due to regular days off decided by Alex Cora. While there is still plenty of time left on his contract, it is safe to say this is the best first year any player has had on a new contract in Red Sox history.
For Martinez, the leadership off the field has had just as big of an impact. Many teammates have already given a nod to J.D. for helping them fix issues with their swings. Martinez also has been someone who has seemed to handle the Boston media very well, which has been the downfall of many athletes in the city.
Statistically, J.D. has had the best offensive season in a Red Sox uniform since David Ortiz retired. He has filled the void in the middle of the lineup that had been left since Big Papi’s retirement.
The expectations were about as high as they come for Martinez. He was supposed to be the power bat in the heart of the order that David Ortiz was. When a player signs and is immediately compared to one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, it’s tough to live up to expectations, but Martinez has done just that.
While Martinez still has a long way to go before we call his contract a total success, one thing for sure is that he was well worth it in year one.
Photo: Christopher Evans