By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Coming off a 45-homer-in-119-game performance in 2017, J.D. Martinez was all set to strike it rich in free agency last winter. Instead, the 30-year-old had to wait. A lot.
Eventually in February, the Red Sox made the winning offer for Martinez: a five-year deal worth $110 million with opt-out clauses in 2019 and 2020. But based on Martinez’s recent comments, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be eager to become a free agent again.
Martinez, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, expressed a lot of frustration in an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik about the process he went through this past offseason.
“I think free agency really opens up a player’s eyes to markets out there and the business side of it — which is the ugly side. When you’re young, you really don’t know any of that,” Martinez told Cwik. “Once you start getting into the dollars and you start talking about that, then you start seeing teams come out and say how they really feel about you.”
Martinez said that the longer he went unsigned, the more the media started to tear down his credentials, too. He suspected those two things might be connected.
“For some reason, the media wants to lower your value. You see it all over MLB and you’re just like, ‘Dude, what did I ever do to these people?’” he said. “It’s very fishy. The people who say it, and who they work for and stuff like that.”
Martinez was of course not the only free agent to go unsigned for a long stretch in the winter. Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Jonathan Lucroy and others also found it difficult to land one of those big-money deals that previously had been handed out quite liberally by teams, and Martinez’s comments to Yahoo seemed to suggest that a lot of teams’ lack of desire to be competitive played into the quiet free-agent market.
“You have more teams now trying to tank than trying to win,” Martinez said. “To me, it’s sad for the sport.”
Certainly, a look at the standings provides enough reason to believe that the sport is not in an excellent place at the moment.
As for the collection of All-Star-caliber players who went unsigned for quite some time, Martinez didn’t hold back his opinion.
“It was a joke,” Martinez said. “The way this whole baseball thing is going, to me, it’s a shame.”
Thus far, Martinez has proven to be well worth the contract, as he’s hitting .315 with 22 home runs, 16 doubles and a league-leading 55 RBIs. His 1.009 OPS is third-best in all of Major League Baseball. If he continues to produce like that through this season and next year, he could be in position to opt out and cash in with an even bigger contract. But based on his feelings toward free agency, he may choose to avoid going through that frustration again.