Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is in the midst of a bounce-back season, and he's feeling so good about his play that he's weighing whether or not to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to reach free agency this winter.
"I'm right in the middle," Martinez told WEEI.com's Rob Bradford on Tuesday regarding the opt-out. "It's a balancing line, and I'm right in the middle. I haven't made a decision. I don't worry about that stuff, but right now I'm right in the middle."
Martinez, 34, has hit .285/.349/.516 (126 OPS+) with 27 home runs in his first 142 games this season. His contract contained an opt-out clause last offseason as well, but he wisely stayed put after hitting .213/.291/.389 (79 OPS+) with just seven home runs in 54 games during the shortened 2020 campaign. It should be noted that Martinez's woes last year could be linked to the restrictions the league imposed on video access as part of their COVID-19 policies, something he was a vocal critic of throughout the 2020 season.
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Should Martinez remain in place, he would be owed $19.35 million in 2022 -- the final year of his five-year contract. If he opts out, however, the decision will be fueled by the expected implementation of the universal designated hitter as part of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Martinez, never much of a fielder, would then have an additional 15 suitors to play off one another.
Of course, teams have shown an increasing reluctance to make large financial commitments to similar players in recent years. For example, Tampa Bay Rays DH Nelson Cruz had to settle for a one-year deal worth $11 million last winter despite a continued run of excellence. Cruz is and was much older than Martinez, but it's something Martinez and agent Scott Boras will have to weigh heading into the winter.
Martinez originally signed a five-year pact with the Red Sox worth $109.95 million prior to the 2018 season.