The Boston Red Sox must feel the need to play catchup with their AL East rival New York Yankees after the Giancarlo Stanton trade because according to Michael Silverman of The Boston Globe, the team is interested in signing outfield slugger JD Martinez and first baseman Eric Hosmer. Both players will cost a pretty penny and for the sake of the team’s future, president Dave Dombrowski must choose which one to sign rather than break the bank for both.
This is because both players will command multiyear contracts worth $200m at a minimum. Given Dombrowski’s history of giving out lengthy and expensive contracts, the last thing he should do is break the bank to win now, only to risk falling short and be left paying the balance as both men ultimately decline in the next few years.
History with Martinez
The reason Dombrowski would want to sign Martinez goes beyond the 30-year-old batting .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 119 games with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. The two know each other from Dombrowski’s time as head of the Tigers’ front office, so it’s only natural Dombrowski would want to bring Martinez aboard to boost a Red Sox offense that ranked dead last in the AL with 168 home runs last season.
Of course, Martinez will not come cheap. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported last month that Martinez, who hired super agent Scott Boras on November 1, was seeking a seven-year deal worth $210m. That’s a lot of money for someone who has a history of injuries and has only played in over 140 games once in his career.
Not only that, Boston’s outfield is set with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts all penciled in as starters. Unless the plan was to use Martinez as a DH (not the worst idea given his injury history) and move a defensive liability in Hanley Ramirez to first base, spending a great deal of money on him isn’t the best idea unless a trade involving Bradley materializes soon.
Hosmer fills a hole
Eric Hosmer fills a more immediate need for the Red Sox, who are rightfully moving on from Mitch Moreland as they search for an everyday first baseman. Hosmer hit .318 last season and matched his career high with 25 home runs to go with 94 RBI. Nightengale reported today that the San Diego Padres were the "clear-cut favorites" to sign the four-time Gold Glove winner, though Boston was still in the mix.
Hosmer has his merits as a first baseman and a clubhouse leader, and his helping the Kansas City Royals win a World Series in 2015 ups his value, but there are concerns from a statistical standpoint. His batting average last season was likely thanks to a remarkably high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .351 and from a defensive standpoint, he has posted a negative Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in all but two of his MLB seasons, 2013 and 2015.
Granted, Hosmer's UZR was only -0.3 in 2017, but it's safe to say his four Gold Gloves come from him being flashy in the field and diving for lots of balls as opposed to elite fielding skills. He has a combined 26 errors in his Gold Glove years, so he really isn't as elite a fielder as the award suggests.
And because he is a left-handed first baseman with power and leadership skills, Hosmer is going to command north of $20m a year. Maybe not a $200m contract, but something close to it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Between the two players, the Red Sox absolutely must prioritize Hosmer even if it means overpaying him. There just isn't a place for Martinez unless Bradley is traded and Ramirez is moved to first base, and Ramirez is an even worse fielder. Thus, better to take a mulligan on defense with Hosmer because his production at the plate will more than make up for it, especially in the friendly confines of Fenway Park.
Pursuing both players hoping to sign both is the absolute last thing Dombrowski should do. He already crippled the Tigers' payroll with the $244m owed to Miguel Cabrera through 2025, not to mention Cabrera's initial $153m extension signed in 2008, so the man's history with money isn't exactly glowing.
Boston needs a big bat and Hosmer can provide it while providing minimal injury risks, so better to let another team make a run at Martinez unless the market transforms over the rest of the offseason.
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