PHOENIX — By all accounts, outfielder J. D. Martinez wanted to stay in the desert. Everything was positive, his teammates supportive, the fan base enthusiastic, and the reward potentially astonishing.
After the Diamondbacks acquired Martinez, now 31-years-old, from Detroit at the All-Star break two years ago, the native of Miami help propel Arizona into the offseason with an offensive barrage rarely witnessed in a pennant race. Despite injuring his hand while batting in Cincinnati just after the trade was made, Martinez proceeded to have a destructive stretch for two-and-a-half months that was nearly unrivaled in the history of the game.
In 62 outings, Martinez hit .302, slammed 29 homers and drove in 65 runs. On Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium, Martinez became the 18th player in the history of the game to slam four home runs in one game. All of which pushed Martinez with Paul Goldschmidt as one of the best offensive combinations in the majors.
When Arizona general manager Mike Hazen made the deal with the Tigers, he realized that Martinez was a looming free agent and the Diamondbacks, as an organization, would have to deal with Scott Boras, a hard-line negotiator, and Martinez’s agent, in future contract talks. After the Diamondbacks were eliminated from postseason play by the Dodgers in the NL Divisional series, attention immediately focused on Martinez and his future. Given the reality of Phoenix as “a small market,” Hazen could not expect the financial decision-makers within the Arizona organization to open their collective wallets.
Eventually, Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million contract to join the Boston Red Sox. For the 2018 season, Martinez surpassed what he accomplished with the Diamondbacks and ended with a .330 batting average, slammed 37 doubles, 43 homers and drove in 130 runs.
During this past weekend, Martinez was back in Chase Field with his defending World Series champions and was asked if he considered returning to the Diamondbacks.
“I loved being (in Arizona) and wanted to come back,” he told Fancred sitting the Red Sox dugout. “This was something that I told my agent that I was definitely up for coming back. But, obviously, it’s a business and things don’t always work out. I found a place in Boston and found a home in Boston. I couldn’t be happier.”
Prior to Hazen being named the club’s GM in October, 2016, Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, opened his wallet and, for a small market team, committed financial suicide.
In the course of a short period of time, the club signed pitcher Zack Greinke to a $206 million contract, outfielder Yasmany Tomas to a $60 million deal and pitcher Yoan Lopez to a $16 million contract. Now with no economic leverage, Hazen was forced to watch Martinez open talks with other teams. Given the dynamics of the 2017 team, Martinez made it known, especially during his first visit back to Chase Field since the 2017 season, he wanted to remain in Sedona Red.
When Boras reached the Diamondbacks with a reported desire to wrap up a contract somewhere in the $150 million range, the figure fell upon silent ears. Despite Martinez’s desire to return, his immediate response on talking with other teams represented a clear reference to the Diamondbacks financial plight.
Asked why he did not return to Arizona, Martinez smiled and replied, “go ask Hazen.”
On the diamond …
The Diamondbacks' 5-4 walk-off victory Saturday over Boston established a franchise record for most runs through their first nine games of a season. After Carson Kelly drilled a single in the bottom of ninth to score Nick Ahmed with the game-winner, that was the 61st run scored. The previous mark was 60, set in the 2010 season.
Among individual players, Ahmed has hit safely in his last five games (8-for-21) and that’s a .381 clip. Also, David Peralta has 18 hits through the opening nine games and that’s a club record. The previous mark of 15 was achieved by Orlando Hudson in the 2007 season.
The Red Sox series concluded Sunday afternoon with Merrill Kelly (1-0, 4.50) falling in a tight, 1-0 loss to Hector Velazquez (0-0, 4.50) and the Boston bullpen. The homestand continues with two against the Texas Rangers and four against the San Diego Padres.