By trading away one of the best players in baseball in Mookie Betts, the outlook for the Red Sox’ 2020 season may have changed in some people’s eyes, but not to JD Martinez.
When speaking with reporters earlier Monday, Martinez acknowledged that the Sox will ‘feel’ the loss of Betts, but that should not stop them from being competitive in 2020.
“I think we have a lot of really good players,” Martinez said. “I believe in the guys we have. If guys continue to get better, I think we’re going to be really good.”
Before Boston dealt Betts and left-hander David Price to the Dodgers last week, Martinez had the chance to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent back in November.
“You have to make decisions based on what’s in front of you,” the 32-year-old slugger said in regard to his decision to remain with the Red Sox. “That was the decision I made. That was the hand I had. Obviously, [Betts and Price] are gone, but I don’t think this team is a bad team because they left.”
Martinez pointed towards the pieces the Sox get back in the trade as a reason to be excited about the future.
“I know we got some good guys for them,” Martinez said of Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.
When asked about the 2020 version of the Red Sox having a bit of a chip on their shoulders coming off an underwhelming 2019 campaign, Martinez seemed to agree with that notion, saying, “I definitely think a lot of guys are a little bit more hungry than last year. I’m not saying our team was complacent last year, but I think we were a little more relaxed coming in. Last year was kind of a slap in the face, a reality check for us. I think a lot of guys are coming in a lot more determined and ready to go. The team we put on the field last year wasn’t us.”
The 2019 Red Sox, despite finishing with a record of 84-78, still boasted one of the more lethal lineups in the American League. And even with the loss of Betts, the Boston bats should still do plenty offensively.
It’s the pitching that has been the main concern, especially with the starting rotation that has lost Rick Porcello to free agency and Price to a trade.
The three guys the Sox will presumably look to lean on the most this year — Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez — have all dealt with durability issues in the past, or more specifically, as recently as 2019, when both Eovaldi and Sale missed a significant amount of time with injuries.
“We’re hoping this year everyone stays healthy,” said Martinez. “And we go out there and play the way we know how to play.”
With all the negativity surrounding the Red Sox in the wake of trading a franchise cornerstone such as Betts, it could be easy to overlook a club that looks poised to be the third-best team in their division. However, if the Sox do adopt an “Us against the World” kind of mentality headed into the new season, they could go out looking to prove their doubters wrong in 2020.