Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez All for Universal Designated Hitter Moving Forward

When J.D. Martinez inked a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox back in February 2018, he did so knowing that he would have the chance to opt out of that deal on three separate occasions.

The first of those occasions arose at the end of this past season. Martinez decided to opt in.

The second of those occasions will come at the conclusion of the 2020 season. This time around, Martinez may decide to test the free agency waters.

Why would Martinez, who turns 33 next month, do that, you ask? Well, the answer is simple. The National League is adopting the designated hitter for the 2020 campaign and will likely keep it that way moving forward.

With the addition of the DH in the senior circuit, several more jobs in baseball just opened up, as Martinez put it.

When asked by reporters via Zoom on Sunday about the new rule change, Martinez said, ““I’m all for it, obviously. I’m a DH. I think you could speak to a lot of pitchers who are for it, too. A lot of pitchers like it and a lot of pitchers in the AL like it because they feel like the pitchers in the NL have an advantage. That’s one less hitter they have to face and one less elite hitter they have to face. I like it. I like to even the playing field across the board. I understand the history of it, so I see the other side of it too, but I’m in favor of it.”

Added the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner: “It’s 15 more jobs around the league. I think it’ll make things really interesting. There wouldn’t be that whole AL (versus) NL argument. It would be what team is the best and how does every team measure up against each other now. Not how every team measures up in each league.”

Because of the shortened season, Martinez will earn approximately 37% of the $23.75 million he was supposed to make this year, or about $8.78 million to be more exact.

This winter, the Florida native will have to decide between returning to Boston for $19.35 million in 2021 or opt out of his deal and become a free agent.

For now though, Martinez is more focused on preparing for a truncated 2020 season in a shorter amount of time than he is used to.

“It’s going to be really, really tough to get everything back, get your body underneath you,” Martinez said when asked about the unique Summer Camp experience with under three weeks to go until Opening Day. “It’s a sprint. You don’t have that month, month and a half to get ready for a season.”

The Red Sox will open the 2020 season against an American or National League East opponent on July 24th. If I were to guess, I would say Martinez starts that game at DH and hits out of the cleanup spot.

 

MLB Expected to Propose Universal DH for 2020 Season, per Report

Major League Baseball is expected to propose a universal designated hitter for the 2020 season as part of their talks with owners and the MLB Players Association in the coming days, according to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Per Bowden, “Most executives believed prior to the coronavirus shutdown that the [universal DH] would be implemented by 2021 or 2022.” But, due to the unique circumstances in this case, the implementation of the designated hitter in both the American and National Leagues could “be a way to cut down on injuries in a worrisome time,” as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman notes.

The ramifications this has for the Red Sox are not all that significant seeing how the club already has one of the best DHs in baseball in J.D. Martinez. However, if what The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports is accurate, and it likely is, the Sox would play around 80 games this season against opponents “only from their own division and the same geographic division in the opposite league.”

In other words, if there is baseball to be played in 2020, the only other clubs the Red Sox would face in the regular season would be the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, and Marlins.

It’s unclear at this point how many of those games would take place in National League ballparks, but the dread of having to constantly worry about the pitcher’s spot in the lineup in those particular contests would not be an issue if the universal DH is indeed implemented.

Interleague play would take on a whole new meaning in this scenario, and it would certainly serve as an adjustment period for certain National League clubs and a welcomed change for others.

Before anything concrete is laid out though, there are still several hurdles for MLB to jump through.

First, the league has a conference call scheduled with its owners on Monday where plans for a potential 2020 season will be discussed.

If the owners approve of MLB’s plans, that same proposal will be presented to the MLBPA on Tuesday.

Like I said though, there are still plenty of obstacles ahead, especially those of the financial variety.