This is interesting, both for what it means for J.D. Martinez and the Red Sox and for what it means for this odd offseason.
It was widely reported earlier this offseason that free agent slugger J.D. Martinez was given a $125 million offer by the Boston Red Sox, who are seen as his primary suitor. Many have taken Martinez’s unwillingness to accept such an offer as unreasonable, and have used that decision as evidence that the slow offseason market is more a function of players’ delusions as to their value as opposed to teams lowballing them or not making offers.
This afternoon, however, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reported that, according to multiple major league sources, the Red Sox’ offer to Martinez is closer to $100M than $125M. The exact numbers were not reported.
I will grant that “closer to $100 million” is still a lot of money. Further, it is not for me to say that J.D. Martinez is not worth that or that he is clearly worth more. Martinez is a weird free agent who has defensive liabilities and is not the youngest guy out there but who slugs like crazy and fits the Red Sox particularly well. Maybe $100 million is a great offer. Maybe it’s light. I don’t make commission off of him, so I sorta don’t care.
The point that is interesting, though, is that the reports of his offers were generally wrong. If you’ve followed offseasons as closely as I have for the past decade this should not surprise you. There are a lot of wrong reports floating around each winter, usually unintentional. Yet once those reports are out there — started with a tweet from Ken Rosenthal or Jon Heyman or someone and then sent around the world via sites like this one, MLB Trade Rumors, newspapers, talk radio and back again — they’re assumed to be accurate.
That normally doesn’t matter, but this offseason it sort of does. It does because the conventional wisdom on the part of most fans I’ve encountered is that the slow free agent market is due to the players misreading the market and overvaluing themselves, as evidenced by things like J.D. Martinez turning down $125 million. Well, what if he never got an offer for $125 million? What if this $100 million offer Speier is talking about is super backloaded and only gets that high with hard-to-reach incentives? What if even Speier is wrong and the offer is less than $100 million? What if the scores of free agents who are not J.D. Martinez have been lowballed or have been given no offer whatsoever?
All of which is to say that, as of now, we can’t necessarily say exactly why the market has been as slow as it has been. Over time we’ll know better. We’ll know if this is all because of a bad CBA or a bad crop of free agents. Alternatively, it could be discovered later that there has been collusion. It could be a combination of all of those things and some other factors For that reason, we should be careful about the assumptions we make about all of this. Including the assumption that a given player is greedy or unrealistic or whatever.