MLB Free Agency: J.D. Martinez Makes Sense for Just About Everybody
The Detroit Tigers appear to be realizing that it's time to regroup.
Look gang, this is a team that isn't getting any younger. Their everyday first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, is still really awesome, but he's also 33. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is 34. Their designated hitter, Victor Martinez, is 37, and four of their starting pitchers last year, Justin Verlander (33), Anibal Sanchez (32), Mike Pelfrey (32), and Jordan Zimmermann (30) are all in their 30s. And their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, was 34 last season.
So yeah, the Tigers appear to be ready to get a little bit younger and are looking to clear some payroll at the same time. That's why outfielder J.D. Martinez is one of the hottest trade candidates in baseball.
The MLB Network's Jon Morosi tweeted the Philadelphia Phillies had preliminary discussions about Martinez for their outfield, and there were apparently talks with the New York Mets that went nowhere once Detroit asked for Michael Conforto.
Nevertheless, Martinez has been one of the game's more underrated power hitters over the last three seasons.
As MLB.com's Mike Petriello noted, Martinez's numbers during that stretch are similar to those of Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton, two guys you've probably heard of. And he is in the final year of a deal that pays him just $11.75 million, so the 29-year-old wouldn't require a long-term commitment.
Martinez missed about two-dozen games last year because of a fractured right elbow, which accounts for some of his accumulating numbers being down. But as Petriello also noted, Martinez's defense took a big step backwards in 2016, which ate into a large amount of his value.
In 2014, his FanGraphs Def value was -6.9, and in 2015, it improved to -0.1. He was worth 0 Defensive Runs Saved in 2014 and was at 4 in 2015.
But in 2016, both numbers took a nose-dive, at -22 DRS and a Def of -22.6. The big question is whether or not this was just a fluky bad defensive season in which the metrics betrayed him, or if he really did massively regress in the field.
Despite his defensive issues, Martinez makes a ton of sense for a rebuilding team like the Phillies, who are looking for players on one-year deals and don't want to acquire someone who will block a roster spot from one of the many young outfielders they hope are close to Major League-ready. And Martinez's offensive abilities would certainly help Philadelphia, which finished as the worst offensive team in baseball last season.
Detroit is rightfully asking a lot for their young outfielder, but it's unlikely they'll be able to pry a big-time prospect away from a team.
If the team is looking to dump payroll as well as acquire prospects, a team like Philadelphia, with plenty of payroll money to burn (they have only about $35 million on the books for 2017 at the moment), taking on a bloated contract like Anibal Sanchez's could make things a win-win for them -- or any other team looking to secure a productive outfield bat for a year.
For teams that don't want to pony up and pay a big-time prospect price in exchange for Andrew McCutchen, Martinez is potentially a more palatable option. It's likely a lock he'll be moved at the Winter Meetings in Washington, DC next week.