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Cards could shake up market with Jose Martinez

Should St. Louis decide to sell, slugger could be a top target
MLB.com

When it comes to the trade market, the St. Louis Cardinals' status is very fluid. Given their hovering-around-.500 record and surprising recent managerial change, they could buy, hold or sell. If they choose to do the latter, the Cards have at least one very intriguing piece to dangle in Jose Martinez.

The righty slugger's role with the team has shifted under new skipper Mike Shildt, which at least raises the possibility that St. Louis could look to move Martinez, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. As an in-his-prime bat who has owns a .307/.375/.497 career slash line and comes with a whopping four-and-a-half years of club control, players like Martinez don't often get traded.

When it comes to the trade market, the St. Louis Cardinals' status is very fluid. Given their hovering-around-.500 record and surprising recent managerial change, they could buy, hold or sell. If they choose to do the latter, the Cards have at least one very intriguing piece to dangle in Jose Martinez.

The righty slugger's role with the team has shifted under new skipper Mike Shildt, which at least raises the possibility that St. Louis could look to move Martinez, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. As an in-his-prime bat who has owns a .307/.375/.497 career slash line and comes with a whopping four-and-a-half years of club control, players like Martinez don't often get traded.

So why might it happen, and where might Martinez fit?

Video: CLE@STL: Jose Martinez crushes a 3-run homer to left

For one, Shildt through three contests has chosen to start Matt Carpenter at first base, and the versatile vet has started the second half on fire, including a historic three-homer, two-double performance Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

First base had been Martinez's primary position this season, as he'd started 75 of the Cards' first 93 games there despite ranking among the worst with the glove. That points to the organization's renewed focus on solidifying the defense, as MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch writes:

"Cleaning up the defense was an impetus for some of Shildt's changes -- most notably in nudging Martinez out of an everyday role. Shildt has talked to Martinez about the change, as the organization evaluates whether he might best fit as a trade chip this month."

For another, despite his offensive production in the Major Leagues, Martinez already will turn 30 years old on July 25 and has a history as a journeyman who bounced around the Minors before finally getting his break in St. Louis last year.

What does this mean for Martinez going forward? "Right now, that asset could be a great bat off the bench," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "Obviously, long term, that is something we need to think through."

If that's how the Cards are viewing Martinez -- as a bench bat behind the red-hot Carpenter -- then it behooves other clubs to inquire about his availability. Given Martinez's defensive limitations, he might best be utilized as a designated hitter who occasionally handles first base. So here are a few American League teams who could benefit from bringing aboard Martinez's big bat.

Seattle Mariners
The Mariners traded for Ryon Healy last offseason, but Martinez unquestionably would be an upgrade as Healy has power (18 homers) but lacks plate discipline (.270 OBP). Not to mention, longtime slugger Nelson Cruz is due to hit free agency this offseason, so Martinez could be a ready-made replacement at DH for years to come. If the Mariners want to end their 17-year postseason drought -- MLB's longest-active streak -- they have to think big and make any improvement they can.

Houston Astros
The defending champs appear to be in the market to bolster their lineup, as they've been linked to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu already. While Yuli Gurriel holds the spot for now, he's 34 years old and has seen his pop drop this year (.486 SLG in 2017 to .444 in '18) after a broken left hamate bone. Meanwhile, regular DH Evan Gattis has been hitting for power (.538 SLG since June 1) but lacks on-base skills (.285 OBP over the same span) and will hit the open market in a few months.

New York Yankees
Considering the Yankees were connected to Manny Machado, they might be aiming to load up their already potent lineup if they can't land rotation help. Although Martinez hits well against both right-handers and left-handers, he's especially dangerous against southpaws (.348/.430/.598 in his career). That makes him a candidate to complement to Greg Bird, who is no stranger to the DL.

Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are on the outside of the AL postseason picture but very much in win-now mode. Sure, this is an unlikely fit, because Albert Pujols remains under contract through 2021 (yes, really) and some rookie named Shohei Ohtani is in the mix at DH. That said, the 38-year-old Pujols -- currently on the DL with left knee inflammation -- continues to show his age (98 OPS+) and Ohtani's Grade 2 ulnar collateral ligament sprain puts his health in question for the rest of 2018 and possibly into 2019.

Jason Catania is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayCat11.

New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Jose Martinez