Red Sox Notes: Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez, Sale, Paxton

J.D. Martinez’s five-year, $110MM deal with the Red Sox is up at season’s end, and the slugger again made clear this weekend that he’d love to return (link via Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe). “Would I love to stay here?” Martinez asked rhetorically. “Yeah. I’ve expressed that to ownership.” Martinez added that he told the Sox he was “really open” to an extension as far back as the 2019-20 offseason. However, he also acknowledged that, as far as contract talks are concerned, “nothing has really happened since I got here.” Martinez further noted that if a Boston reunion isn’t in the cards, he’s at least excited to have a wider range of potential suitors thanks to the advent of the universal designated hitter.

While many nine-figure free agent deals prove regrettable by the time they draw to a close, Martinez has been a mostly sound investment for the Sox. Although he struggled in the shortened 2020 season, he boasts an overall .298/.369/.548 batting line with 118 home runs through 2296 plate appearances since signing his deal. That includes a huge .321/.370/.541 line (164 wRC+) to begin the 2022 campaign. Martinez will turn 35 in August, but his bat isn’t showing many signs of slowing down even as he enters his mid-30s. Boston has about $92.5MM in guaranteed money on the books in 2023, but $20MM of that is allocated to Xander Bogaerts, who is all but a lock to exercise an opt-out in his contract (barring an extension).

More out of Boston…

  • While Bogaerts is almost certainly ticketed for the open market at the end of the season, the star shortstop left open the possibility of in-season extension talks over the weekend. His agent Scott Boras downplayed those chances, telling Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link) that extension talks with the Sox won’t take place during the regular season. Whether behind-the-scenes discussions take place or not, it has never seemed likely the sides will come to an agreement after they were extremely far apart in Spring Training. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported last month that Boston had offered an additional one year and $30MM to convince Bogaerts to forego his opt-out possibility. That’s well shy of the three-time All-Star’s likely market value, and Bogaerts implied over the weekend the team would have to significantly raise their offer were they to try to reignite talks. “I don’t know how this would work,” he said.”But if they talk to Scott behind closed doors and it’s something that’s fair, he can come to me. We’ll see how that goes.
  • The Red Sox “were quietly shopping” Christian Vazquez over the winter but (obviously) never lined up with a potential trade partner, writes Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic in her latest mailbag column. Boston exercised a $7MM club option on the 32-year-old catcher at the end of the 2021 season but was also reported to be heavily in the mix for Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings over the winter — before he was ultimately instead traded to Miami. Vazquez slugged 23 homers in the “juiced ball” season in 2019 and had a stronger 2020 campaign (on a rate basis). However, he’s struggled to a .252/.302/.344 output in 583 subsequent plate appearances (2022 included). McCaffrey suggests that if the Sox don’t right the ship, Vazquez could again be a trade candidate this summer, which would leave prospect Connor Wong and veteran Kevin Plawecki as the team’s primary catchers. Of course, Plawecki himself is a free agent at season’s end and could change hands in such a scenario — assuming he can bounce back from the dreadful .139/.179/.167 slash he’s posted through his first 40 plate appearances.
  • Injured Sox ace Chris Sale, who is on the 60-day IL with a stress fracture in his rib cage, has been cleared to begin throwing and is playing catch, tweets Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. At last check, Sale wasn’t throwing and was dealing with a non-baseball, non-Covid related medical issue, but it seems he’s put that past him and is officially progressing toward a return to the mound. The seven-time All-Star has thrown just 42 2/3 innings since the conclusion of the 2019 season, primarily due to Tommy John surgery. Speier also notes that fellow southpaw James Paxton is still receiving treatment and has yet to begin throwing as he works back from 2021 Tommy John surgery. The Sox announced earlier this month that Paxton was dealing with continued soreness in his elbow.

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