Dealer Dave wields big bat
Additions now help next offseason, too
ORLANDO, Fla. — While all around him buzzes with talk of Giancarlo Stanton’s trade market and J.D. Martinez’ contract demands, Dave Dombrowski has other things on his mind.
He needs a big bat, of course, but the Red Sox president of baseball operations also needs to lock his best player into a long-term contract, and he must consider the rich possibilities of next year’s free agent class.
“You look at all those things together,” Dombrowski said yesterday at the second session of the general managers meetings. “In some ways, you prioritize your own players, too, and keeping them for the long term. If you do that, does that restrict you from doing something else? But yet, if you don’t keep them or they don’t want to be with you, then you have other availabilities that are out there, potentially. So, there’s a lot that goes into those decisions.”
A lot of big-picture possibilities to consider, all of which should lead Dombrowski right back to the big bats available here and now.
This market fits the Red Sox’ current needs, and those current needs aren’t blocking any of their longterm goals. The Sox can give a bat like Martinez a massive contract, sign a talent like Mookie Betts to an extension and still have wiggle room to pluck one of the big names out of the 2018 free agent class.
A team like the Red Sox has to do everything at once, and this winter is one of those all-at-once moments.
Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are among 13 Red Sox eligible for arbitration this winter. Most will sign one-year deals with a meaningful raise, but some will be worth long-term commitments.
Betts is one of those. Perhaps Bogaerts as well.
But neither Betts nor Bogaerts is a first baseman or provides the kind of middle-of-the-order pop that can be found this offseason. The Red Sox still need a guy to bat fourth in the lineup next year and beyond; they still need someone to play first base beyond Hanley Ramirez.
On the free agent market, Martinez is one of those true cleanup hitters, and both Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana are strong defensive first basemen who have some offensive pop. The trade market, too, has legitimate power available beyond the high-profile possibility of Stanton.
“That’s special power,” one general manager said of Stanton. “But there’s (other) impact ability out there.”
Next year’s free agent market? It could be remarkable, headlined by sluggers Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson and possibly an ace in Clayton Kershaw. But passing on Martinez out of hope for Harper is far too risky in the short term, and it might not pay off in the long term. And if starter David Price opts out of his contract after next season, significant spending power will open for the pursuit of a difference-maker.
“You always look to the future, so you’re never just looking at this year,” Dombrowski said. “You always do that. But I think what gets lost, too, is that we have some young players that we want to retain in our own organization. So, how many big, big-dollar guys can one club have? So, I think that there are still limitations on every organization in baseball in that regard.”
Put Martinez in the middle of a lineup behind Betts and Andrew Benintendi, and ahead of Rafael Devers. That’s a good place to start, both in the short term and the long term. It adds the power that hasn’t emerged from within the system while building around the young athleticism that has solidified itself in recent years.
What’s available now fits all that Dombrowski is trying to accomplish. It’s a market built for the Red Sox, and they need to take advantage.
“In today’s world, you not only make decisions on a player’s ability, but you also talk about contracts,” Dombrowski said. “So you do have to weigh all those things in. I do think there are quite a few players that are capable of helping us for what we need to do. Maybe they’re not quite as high-profile as some of the names, but I think we still have to remember that we still won 93 games, so we are in that position. We’re not looking to just revamp our ballclub. We’re looking to make that addition, and I think there’s quite a few guys out there that could help us.”
Dombrowski has a lot of things on his plate. He can handle some of it by taking advantage of what’s right in front of him.
DEEP THOUGHTS: J.D. Martinez, a free agent after a huge offensive season with Detroit and Arizona, is the kind of hitter who could power the Red Sox lineup.