Were you not familiar with effective middle relievers in Major League Baseball, you’d probably think that the Boston Red Sox signed the lead singer of Coldplay. But, this Chris Martin is a baseball pitcher, and he’s a pretty good one. Thanks to having such a name, it’s fully possible that his signing to the Red Sox bullpen for $17.5 million over two years will appear in many Google searches which pertain to the more famous Chris Martin. Also, that’s a lot of money for a middle relief pitcher.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Chris Martin is fantastic at his job. Not bad for a guy who gave up on baseball in 2006 after a shoulder injury and went to work at UPS and Lowe’s for awhile. Literally, he had a game of catch with friends and realized, hey, my shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore. It turns out that, much like Jim Morris before him, he also had great velocity and decided to take advantage of this by focusing on being a one-inning pitcher. While Jim Morris has a great story (and I actually have had a brief conversation with him before on Twitter), Martin has had a much more successful baseball career, even if they haven’t made a movie about him (they probably should).
It’s a bit surprising that Martin only managed a $2.5 million one-year deal in 2022, considering that he barely walks any batters and came off a solid 2021 for the Atlanta Braves. Fortunately for Martin (he’s a really fortunate guy, huh), even after a ho-hum start to the year, the Dodgers knew better and he finished the year strong out in L.A. Unsurprisingly, a lot of teams were vying for his services to hold down the middle innings, and Boston gave him the sweetest deal.
At $8.75 million per year, Martin is essentially being asked to provide at least 1 WAR of value to the Red Sox in each season. He’s projected for 0.5 WAR, which would be in line with his career averages. It’s also likely that the Red Sox had to overpay slightly to secure his services, but Martin has enough of a track record that this should be a good contract regardless.
Of course, relief pitching is a well-known toss-up, thanks to pitching so few innings. One or two blow up appearances ruins your entire season stat line. For reference, let’s look at what was a solid, but unimpressive 2021 season for Martin. He gave up 2 earned runs or more only 4 times in 46 appearances. One of those times was actually against the Red Sox on June 15th, when Alex Verdugo knocked a three-run homer off of him. That one homer accounted for 3 of Martin’s 19 earned runs on the entire season. That means without that home run, his ERA would’ve been 3.49 vs his actual 3.95 ERA in 2021. That’s a huge difference, all because of one swing of Verdugo’s bat.
Obviously I use the Red Sox example because Martin is now a part of that organization, and it’s fully possible that without that three-run home run, Martin may have been guaranteed more than a single year and a couple million dollars. Ironically, because of that prove it deal, he re-established his value and is set to double his career earnings with a two-year contract. So, it all worked out for Chris Martin in the end; what a lucky guy!
Does Chris Martin make the Red Sox a contender? Well, no. But, if he has another exceptional year, then yes, he probably helps the Red Sox eek out an extra win over the course of a 162-game schedule. It’s not a bad deal, even if they overpaid slightly, as relief pitching is suddenly becoming the hot commodity of the baseball free agent market.
I like the Martin deal, but it also brings Boston $9 million closer to the luxury tax threshold of $233 million. With this signing, Roster Resource estimates Boston’s luxury tax payroll number at $161.3 million. I don’t think the Red Sox get anywhere close to paying the luxury tax for a second year in a row, as they’re $72 million away, but I don’t see the Red Sox payroll eclipsing $200 million in 2023, either.
In any case, this is a good signing. It’s just not the kind of signing the Red Sox need in order to guarantee even a Wild Card contender for 2023 and beyond.