Imagine you go to a restaurant because it promises a five-course dinner. But after you sit down and tuck in your bib, the waiter brings only three courses -- and no cherry with dessert.
You would probably feel underfed. Or at least fed up.
Just like J.D. Martinez.
Martinez switched agents last year because of Scott Boras' track record of negotiating seven-year deals for free-agent outfielders (Matt Holliday, Jayson Werth, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo). But with spring training set to begin next week, the best offer he has gotten is a five-year proposal reportedly worth $125 million or so from the Boston Red Sox.
Needless to say, Martinez must be feeling, well, underfed. Probably fed up, too, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported this week, with a historically lethargic market, with the starved-for-power Red Sox and maybe even with Boras, though he’s hardly the only agent having a difficult time making deals.
But that isn’t the Red Sox’s problem.
As much as the two-time defending American League East champions need Martinez -- and make no mistake, they really need him after hitting the fewest homers in the league last season and seeing the New York Yankees pair Giancarlo Stanton with Aaron Judge -- they also don’t feel pressure to up the ante at a time when Martinez isn’t exactly being inundated with offers.
The sides will come together eventually, right? Right? Well, what if they don’t? What if the Arizona Diamondbacks step up their offer enough that Martinez stays in the desert, where he would also remain in his preferred role as an outfielder and work with personal hitting coach/close friend Robert Van Scoyoc? Or what if a mystery team enters the fray? Or what if Martinez really is fed up enough to spurn Boston?
In that case, here are five potential Red Sox contingencies:
1. Do nothing. Hey, did you know the Sox won 93 games last season with nearly the exact roster that will show up in Fort Myers next week? If not, team president Dave Dombrowski will happily remind you, just as he has done wherever he has traveled this winter.
The Red Sox subtracted retired David Ortiz from the middle of their order, didn’t replace him and still scored the sixth-most runs in the AL with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez having less productive seasons than they did in 2016.
Dombrowski can reasonably talk himself into believing some or all will bounce back. But how much can he convince a fan base that didn’t tune in to New England Sports Network as frequently last year?
2. Wait for the trade deadline. If the Red Sox whiff on Martinez, this appears to be their most likely course of action.
“We expect to improve and I would hope to improve with a big bat in the middle of the lineup,” team chairman Tom Werner said recently. “But there are also other ways to improve.”
Say, for instance, swinging a trade for Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado before July 31. By then, both sluggers are expected to be on the doorstep of free agency. If the Toronto Blue Jays or Baltimore Orioles aren’t in wild-card contention, they could opt to trade their superstars.
The Red Sox won’t suddenly have more elite prospects in their depleted farm system to use as trade bait. But for a two-month rental, the asking price won’t be nearly as high as it was this winter for Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu or St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna, both of whom are under contract beyond this season.
3. Sign Mike Moustakas. In addition to being the most prolific power hitter on the free-agent market, Martinez fits neatly into the Red Sox’s lineup as mostly a DH and an occasional outfielder. But what if there are other, more creative solutions?
Here’s a thought: Sign free-agent third baseman Moustakas and move young Rafael Devers across the infield to first base, where many scouts project he might wind up eventually. Or use Devers as the primary DH and let Mitch Moreland and Ramirez split time at first base.
Either way, Moustakas would help boost the middle of the order. He hit 38 homers and slugged .521 for the Kansas City Royals last season, and at age 29 he’s firmly in his prime. Like Martinez, Moustakas is repped by Boras, but Dombrowski must already have him on speed dial.
If Moustakas is too far outside the box, the market will present other options. With more than 100 free agents unsigned, one-year contracts might be offered up as easily as sunflower seeds and bubble gum. First basemen/DH Logan Morrison (38 homers last season for the Tampa Bay Rays) and Lucas Duda (at least 27 homers in three of the past four seasons) could fall into that category, along with outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez.
4. Trade away JBJ. Let’s make this clear: The Red Sox don’t want to trade Bradley. They recognize his value as an elite defensive center fielder and believe he’s closer to the 26-homer, .835-OPS hitter from 2016 than the 17-homer, .726-OPS No. 9 hitter from last year. And they reportedly shut down trade talks for Yasiel Puig from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Edwin Encarnacion from the Cleveland Indians because Bradley was included in both deals.
But if the need for a middle-of-the-order bat becomes so acute that it can no longer be ignored, the Sox might not have a choice but to revisit trading Bradley and moving left fielder Andrew Benintendi to center, his natural position.
5. Sign J.D. Martinez! Look, it would be one thing if the Sox were taking advantage of this market’s nearly unprecedented dormancy by low-balling Martinez. But their reported offer is comparable to other recent contracts for free-agent outfielders, including Yoenis Cespedes' four-year, $110 million deal with the New York Mets last winter. And if the competition for Martinez increases, the deep-pocketed Sox can afford to kick in more cash or even an extra year.
Signing a one-year deal somewhere else and going back out into free agency next winter doesn’t make sense for Martinez, especially considering the 2018-19 megaclass of Bryce Harper, Machado and Donaldson. Martinez is still the marquee name in this market, and if he accepted the Red Sox’s offer today, he would be its first -- and possibly only -- nine-figure signee.
It’s true Martinez went into this looking for a six- or seven-year deal worth about $30 million per year, and his disappointment at not receiving it would be undeniable. But at least he has a legitimate offer on the table, which is more than most free agents in this market can say.
In the end, the Red Sox are banking on him taking it.