The D-backs' front office sent its players and fans this message on Tuesday: We believe in this team. That's what the acquisition of outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Tigers represents on several levels.Yes, Martinez is one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball, and he will give Arizona's lineup a
The D-backs' front office sent its players and fans this message on Tuesday: We believe in this team. That's what the acquisition of outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Tigers represents on several levels.
Yes, Martinez is one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball, and he will give Arizona's lineup a different look the next time the Dodgers run out all those lefty starters -- Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill.
The D-backs are hitting .223 with a .660 OPS against left-handers this season, and they recently lost three straight one-run games to the Dodgers, all started by left-handers.
With outfielder Yasmany Tomas, a right-handed hitter, out indefinitely with a groin injury, Arizona's lineup needed an upgrade. Martinez has a .998 OPS against left-handers the past four seasons, which is the fourth-highest total in the Majors. In that time, he has 30 homers in 390 at-bats against lefties.
But let's not overplay the lefty thing. Martinez, 29, hits all pitching. Since reinventing himself at the start of the 2014 season, he has a .912 OPS with 99 home runs and 111 doubles.
That Martinez is a free agent after the season does not matter. D-backs general manager Mike Hazen made the deal for 2017. He sees a window open for the franchise to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011, and that's all that matters.
That's a big, big deal to the players who've busted their tails for the past 3 1/2 months to put the club in contention. These opportunities don't come along every season, so why not go for it?
Few of us had the D-backs penciled in for a 54-39 start, but that's irrelevant now. We did not see them scoring runs in bunches, which they have done. Nor did we see Arizona's rotation as being the second best in the Majors, which it has been.
As the D-backs approach the 100-game mark, they are nicely positioned to make the postseason. Yes, they trail the Dodgers by a considerable margin after a six-week stretch in which Los Angeles has played insanely great baseball. If you needed a reminder why the Wild Card berths have added so much to the game, this is it. In another era, Arizona would be swimming upstream.
Not this season -- the D-backs hold the top National League Wild Card spot.
As recently as 2014, the Giants won the NL Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh to start a postseason run that ended with them hoisting a World Series trophy.
If Arizona simply grabs one of the Wild Card berths, it could have Zack Greinke lined up to start it, and another All-Star, Robbie Ray, for Game 1 of a NL Division Series.
I know we're getting way ahead of ourselves. The point is that if the D-backs get there, anything can happen. That's the beauty of it.
This trade was made to simply put Arizona in a better position to go play some October baseball, and Hazen did a great job pulling it off with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline still 13 days away.
To get an extra 12 games or so from Martinez might result in another victory or two, and who knows what that ultimately will be worth? Maybe it'll be the difference between playing the NL Wild Card Game at home or on the road. Or maybe it'll be the difference between staying home and advancing to the postseason.
Regardless of what it ends up being worth, it was a smart, timely move. The message it sends is important, too.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.