Why Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are likely to test free agency


CARLSBAD, Calif. — Top agent Scott Boras held the Red Sox up as something of a model franchise on Wednesday. Naturally, he would: they had the highest payroll in baseball, and won a world championship.

Boras lamented the noncompetitive nature of many other clubs, and would love nothing more than for the Red Sox to keep spending.

“I told John Henry, he does not look good in soccer shorts,” Boras said, referring to Henry and Co.'s stake in Liverpool. “So to [divest] him of that and devote all to the baseball wellbeing of his interests. The soccer coach was there with him."

"You have a proven commodity [with the Red Sox]. You have players that are in their mid-20s. You have a team winning when you have a whole group of players that are in their mid- and early 20s. It’s really a model that’s going to allow you a great amount of success if you can retain those players. I think that the baseball algorithms will demonstrate they’re in for a good run if they retain those players.”

But will they retain them all?


“I don’t know,” Boras said. “I was just getting champagne dust, so I have not talked to them at length about that yet.”

Doubtful. Not all of them. And a year from now, the likeliest outcome is that if Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez do sign long term deals here, they’ll have tested free agency first.

Two of the best Sox players entering potential walk years in 2019 are Boras clients. And virtually every factor suggests they’ll test the market, rather than ink new deals ahead of time.

When it comes to Martinez, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski essentially said as much himself Wednesday at the general managers’ meetings. 

There are opt-outs in Martinez’s deal, which could go as long as five years. But he can also walk away after next season. And there are also protections for the Red Sox if Martinez has a specific health situation arise.

Redoing the deal now would mean guaranteeing more of the contract, and Dombrowski made that sound like an uncomfortable proposition for the Red Sox, despite how successful Martinez has been.

“He can choose to leave, it’s his opt out,” Dombrowski said Wednesday. “But the reason we put ‘em in there were medically oriented as we went through at the time.”

“That medical hasn’t changed,” Dombrowski noted.


Martinez, who didn't make as much money as he wanted to last winter, probably will be more than happy to go back on the market himself.

Bogaerts is a different story from a Sox' perspective. But Both Dombrowski and Boras have matters to tackle first.

For one, Boras has a huge spotlight on him as free agent outfielder Bryce Harper’s representative. Harper reportedly turned down a contract worth $300 million to stay with the Nationals. On a basic level, Boras will be focused on what he has to do immediately: get Harper the kind of mega-deal everyone has always expected he would receive.

“I have had Scott do some earlier deals,” Dombrowski said regarding timing. “Not regularly, but he does do it once in a while, so we’ll find out as time goes on. You know, he’s got a lot of big guys out there at this time, so he has a tendency to focus on them. But Bogey’s only one year away, so that’s important for us.”

But Dombrowski also needs to figure out his priorities, with Chris Sale also set to become a free agent next winter, Mookie Betts two years away from free agency, and also plenty of choices to make this winter with present free agents.

“We got a lot of decisions to make,” Dombrowski said. “You know you got Bogey in another year. Mookie, Jackie [Bradley Jr.] in a couple years. So you got some big contracts. And we have great ownership, wherewithal. But still, everybody has some limitations too. So we have to make some tough decisions. But we’ll be prepared to keep a lot of our players, but I’m not sure which ones it’ll end up being as time goes on.”

Even if Boras and Dombrowski were to clear their schedules and slates to discuss Bogaerts right now, there’s good reason for Bogaerts to wait.

Harper’s presence in the free-agent market, along with Manny Machado’s, has long been considered a possible reset, a time when the pay scale can be changed for the players’ betterment. If they’re both paid handsomely, the worth of subsequent free agents increases.


“I sit and listen,” Boras told NBC Sports Boston on Wednesday. “And my attitude is, I always listen. And so I’m open to any thoughts they have on the subject. And then we go from there.”

Another Boras client, Jose Altuve of the Astros, agreed to an extension last spring training, for five years and $151 million in additional money. Altuve is 28 now, Bogaerts is 26.

“Well Bogaerts is [two and a half] years younger. But he’s a shortstop,” Boras said of Bogaerts. “So he’s done a lot.”

That's Boras code for: "Bogaerts is going to be really rich, and I'm going to make sure of it."

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