There appears to be a growing school of thought among Diamondbacks fans that the longer free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez remains unsigned, the better the chances of the outfielder returning to Arizona.
Don’t bet on it, even though Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told azcentral sports that the situation remains “fluid” and he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Martinez and the Diamondbacks ultimately finding enough common ground to reach a new deal.
Martinez, 30, has an offer on the table from the Red Sox for at least $100 million over five years. He and his agent, Scott Boras, are believed to be asking for a deal between $180 million to $200 million over seven years. Without dumping some serious payroll, it’s probably doubtful the Diamondbacks could ever get close to Boston’s offer, let alone the numbers Martinez is said to be seeking.
But the way baseball’s free-agent market seems to be drying up, things can change. The longer the waiting game plays out, the more prices and demands can flip – potentially. It can work the other way, too, perhaps eventually in Martinez’s favor.
But do the Diamondbacks realistically have a chance of bringing him back?
“Well, I always get updates from (General Manager) Mike (Hazen) and the rest of the front office. They keep me posted,” Lovullo said. “They’re the guys that are piecing the team together and they’ve done such a good job with that up to this point. But I think it is fluid.
“Obviously, he’s not signed. I don’t know where it’s at … but I know the front office every single day is trying to make our team better and those are the conversations we have quite often.”
Though he was limited to just 119 games this past season due to injuries, Martinez managed to club 45 home runs and collect 104 RBIs with a cumulative slash line of .303/.376/.690 split between the Diamondbacks and the Tigers.
Those numbers have enabled Martinez to shoot for the moon this offseason and get the biggest and best deal he can find. It’s not like there aren’t teams out there that could use his talents, either. But when it comes to the total package, Martinez might not be the best fit for everyone.
He’s an average to below-average corner outfielder. He doesn’t have much, if any, speed. That would make him appear to be far more attractive to an American League team. But Martinez has expressed a desire to keep playing in the outfield and doesn’t wish to be expressly used as a designated hitter.
Boston would have to move one of its outfielders to the bench – or elsewhere – to placate Martinez. So far, nothing has happened. Maybe the free-agent logjam will start flowing following last week’s moves by the Brewers, who signed outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million deal on the same day they acquired Christian Yelich from the Marlins.
Or maybe Martinez and the boatload of other big-name, unsigned free agents, including Carlos Gonzalez, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer, will band together and just continue to wait things out.
“We know what J.D. did for us last year,” Lovullo said. “He was a tremendous addition, but we love the team we have right now. We believe in that group moving forward. If the front office believes they can add another person, another body, to that mix to help us out, we have total faith in that.”
Others, including ESPN’s new Sunday Night Baseball play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian, have all but colored Martinez gone from the Diamondbacks.
“In terms of the NL West, the team that I think is really interesting out there is the Diamondbacks because J.D. Martinez meant so much to them in the second half of the season,” Vasgersian told azcentral sports. “I think it’s a shame that it sounds like he’s priced out from returning there. You never say never, but it’s not what the tea leaves are telling us right now.
“Had he returned, you’ve got to consider them one of the favorites.”