Jennings: For Red Sox, now’s the time to sign a big bat like J.D. Martinez


ORLANDO — While all around him buzzes with talk of Giancarlo Stanton’s trade market and J.D. Martinez’s contract demands, Dave Dombrowski has other things on his mind.

He needs a big bat, of course, but the Red Sox president of baseball operations also needs to lock his best player into a long-term contract, and he must consider the rich possibilities of next year’s free agent class.

“You look at all those things together,” Dombrowski said, during Tuesday’s second session of the General Manager’s meetings. “In some ways, you prioritize your own players, too, and keeping them for the long term. If you do that, does that restrict you from doing something else? But yet, if you don’t keep them or they don’t want to be with you, then you have other availabilities that are out there, potentially. So, there’s a lot that goes into those decisions.”

A lot of big-picture possibilities to consider, all of which should lead Dombrowski right back to the big bats available here and now.

This market fits the Red Sox’ current needs, and those current needs aren’t blocking any of their long-term goals. They can give a bat like Martinez a massive contract, sign a talent like Mookie Betts to an extension, and still have wiggle room to pluck one of the big names out of the 2018 free agent class.

A team like the Red Sox has to do everything at once, and this winter is one of those all-at-once moments.

Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are among 13 Red Sox eligible for arbitration this winter. Most will sign one-year deals with a meaningful raise, but some will be worth long-term commitments.

Betts is one of those. Perhaps Bogaerts as well.

But neither of those plays first base or provides the kind of middle-of-the-order pop that can be found this offseason. Sign Betts, lock up Bogaerts, and the Red Sox still need a guy to bat fourth next year and beyond. They’ll still need someone to play first base beyond Hanley Ramirez.

Martinez is one of those true clean-up hitters, and both Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana are strong defensive first basemen who have some offensive pop on the free agent market this winter. The trade market, too, has legitimate power available beyond the high-profile possibility of Stanton.

“That’s special power,” one general manager said of Stanton. “But there’s (other) impact ability out there.”

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