NEW YORK -- Seeking right-handed bench depth, the Mets inked veteran José Martínez to a split contract on Thursday. A source said the deal is worth $1 million, with another $500,000 in incentives if Martínez makes the Majors or $225,000 in incentives if he is in the Minors.
Mets president Sandy Alderson recently discussed the need to flesh out his team's bench, particularly with right-handed hitters capable of manning outfield spots. Martínez can do that, despite his history as a below-average defender at both corner outfield spots and first base.
The Mets are mostly interested in Martínez as a hitter, believing he can bounce back from a disappointing 2020 campaign with the Rays and Cubs. There is evidence for the Mets to believe that was an anomaly. From 2016-19 in St. Louis, Martínez hit .298 with 41 home runs and an .821 OPS. He is a career .307/.382/.534 hitter against left-handed pitching, giving the Mets a potential platoon partner for Brandon Nimmo in left field -- provided they can find a center-field upgrade to push Nimmo to left.
Alderson has characterized the Mets’ current outfield situation as a two-man group, referring to lefty hitters Nimmo and Michael Conforto. The team still has a level of interest in free-agent center fielder George Springer, though it remains to be seen if they will make the type of offer necessary to bring Springer to Queens. Signing Springer could push the Mets over Major League Baseball’s $210 million luxury-tax threshold, which they have indicated they are hesitant to do.
Springer is not the only natural center fielder available, however, in a marketplace that also includes Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar and Jake Marisnick.
Dominic Smith is also capable of playing left field for the Mets, but they are reticent to play him there because of his defensive limitations. Mets officials are still waiting to hear if the designated hitter will return to the National League in 2021; if so, Smith would receive most of his playing time there and at first base.
Other in-house outfield options include veterans Guillermo Heredia and Mallex Smith, both of whom can play center field in a pinch.