Position: Right fielder
Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Born: Aug.21, 1987 (Age 30)
Traditional Stats: 85 R, 131 H, 26 2B, 3 3B, 45 HR, 104 RBI, 4 SB, 0 CS, .303/.376/.690
Advanced Stats: 4.2 bWAR, 3.8 fWAR, 166 OPS+, 166 wRC+
Fielding Stats: RF (-5 DRS, -7.7 UZR)
Sometimes, one mid-season trade can completely change the course of a team’s campaign. As Mets fans saw firsthand following the Yoenis Cespedes acquisition at the deadline in 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks similarly rode a dominant second-half performance from J.D. Martinez to a National League Wild Card victory in 2017.
A former Houston Astros castoff, Martinez, after three-and-a-half seasons with the Detroit Tigers, joined the Diamondbacks on July 18. What followed was a 75-day stretch that evoked memories of Cespedes’ magical tear with the Mets two seasons ago.
In 62 games with Arizona, Martinez hit a remarkable 29 home runs, drove in 65 runs, and hit .302/.366/.741 across 232 at-bats.
Since leaving Houston, Martinez has transformed into one of the most feared power hitters in the game. Over the past four seasons, the former 20th-round draft pick has hit the 10th-most home runs (128), driven in the 12th-most runs (350), and posted the third-highest OPS (.936) among qualified hitters.
Martinez is also sabermetrically keen, having expressed his usage of such data in an interview with Eno Sarris of Fangraphs. In particular, he looks at the percentage of pitches he swings and misses at inside the strike zone.
“I can deal with swing and miss out of the zone,” Martinez said. “If I’m swinging and missing in the zone, I don’t like that. That tells me something is wrong.”
Has there been a launch-angle revolution in baseball? That’s not really something Martinez lives and dies by.
“I believe in it, but that’s not what my mindset is. I don’t think I’m going to get my launch angle,” he said.
Martinez increased his fly-ball percentage by seven points from 2016 to 2017, and not only was he hitting the ball in the air more often, he was hitting them farther when he did. Martinez’s HR/FB ratio of 33.8 percent in 2017 nearly doubled his mark from the year prior.
The one knock one Martinez has always been his defense, which saved a near league-worst -22 runs in 2016 (only Andrew McCutchen was inferior at -28). Additionally, Martinez has spent significant time on the disabled list in each of the past two seasons, as he nursed an elbow fracture and foot sprain.
Any way you slice it, Martinez is going to command one of the largest contracts this winter, if not the most expensive. He will likely receive a deal similar to the one most recently signed by Cespedes. Not many teams will be willing to shell out upwards of $100 million to an all hit, no glove right fielder, but the one who is will surely do whatever it takes to place the highest bid.
It will take a few moves this offseason for the Mets to indicate whether or not they’re serious about contending in 2018, but bringing aboard Martinez would give a clear answer right away. However, committing nearly $55 million to two positions is not only risky, but very unlike this franchise. Given that there is a similarly pressing need at positions such as second and third base, it may be more cost effective to save money in the outfield by looking at options such as Jay Bruce, Lorenzo Cain and Carlos Gomez, among others.