There’s been a lot of talk about the Browns’ options in free agency and the draft and for good reason. But what about our AL Central Champions at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario?
When it comes to club management, the Indians have done well overall, albeit with little to worry about, during the 2017 season and into the offseason. Despite losing sluggers Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce in free agency, not much work had to be done to maintain the dominant pitching rotation, as many of the contracts are very team friendly. Work has been made to secure a long-term deal for Francisco Lindor, although he is under club control until 2021. Hopefully, Yandy Diaz can replicate his play from AAA. If Yonder Alonso can solidify the best parts of his breakout season last year, signing him at 16M for the next two years would be a steal and the Tribe wouldn’t miss Carlos Santana’s hitting at all.
All this quiet action is great. The current roster is slated to win the AL Central for a third year in a row and should have a decent shot of winning it all. But that leads us to the questions: Can the Tribe net J.D. Martinez to put them over the top and finally break the drought?
It’s no secret that Martinez would give a huge batting boost to any team he chooses to sign for. He hit 45 HR and drove in 104 RBIs to complement .303 batting average. He had the highest slugging percentage in the league at .690. Next to Shohei Ohtani, he’s the top free agent in baseball for a reason.
If the Indians could sign him, he would probably play in right field. This means bumping Lonnie Chisenhall from the starters, but statistically, the fielding wouldn’t get any worse. Both were around average in terms of runs saved and both have a similar range factor. Martinez’s benefit is only one way, but it certainly is a huge boost to the offense.
So, this leads us to the real question: Is it possible to sign Martinez?
Rumors state that despite the Boston Red Sox offering Martinez a five-year deal worth 125 million, Martinez is “fed up” with it. So, other teams aren’t necessarily out of the picture quite yet. The Diamondbacks have also expressed interest in retaining their all-star, along with clubs such as the Yankees and Indians.
The real question comes with the salary that Martinez would command. Given that he is “fed up” with a deal worth 25 million per year, it seems unlikely that Indians would shell out that sort of money after giving the largest contract in team history to Edwin Encarnacion at 60 million for three years.
If the Indians were to sign Martinez, two things would likely have to happen. Martinez would have to agree to a shorter-term deal, as he is at age 31 now. The Indians are also in win-now mode while their roster is still under club control at a “MoneyBall” rate. Additionally, the Dolans will have to dig into their pockets to make this thing work. The Indians’ payroll is already at its highest ever, but in order to capitalize on this window of opportunity, it might be necessary to spend a little more on that last piece of the puzzle. Signing him wouldn’t be cheap, but it certainly would help to contend with the greater payroll teams like the Yankees and Dodgers that are looking strong for this season and the future.