Patience is a virtue likely to be rewarded by contenders in the market for position-player help at this Trade Deadline. Though the pitching side is, as we've already seen from the big deals swung by the Cubs and Nationals, ultra-competitive, the position-player side -- especially the outfield market -- is
Patience is a virtue likely to be rewarded by contenders in the market for position-player help at this Trade Deadline. Though the pitching side is, as we've already seen from the big deals swung by the Cubs and Nationals, ultra-competitive, the position-player side -- especially the outfield market -- is seemingly saturated, and we could get to a point in the final hours before the July 31 non-waiver Deadline where teams entertain straight salary dumps.
But one man stands out among this bevy of bats. J.D. Martinez is just a rental, but the reigning American League Player of the Week is a 29-year-old slugger in his statistical prime who is making a laughingstock out of left-handed pitching (1.738 OPS) and entered the week with the sixth-highest overall wRC+ (164) in the game among those with 200 plate appearances (trailing only Michael Trout, Freddie Freeman, Aaron Judge, Justin Turner and Jose Altuve).
Martinez is capable of elevating a middle-order not unlike the way another one-time Tiger, Yoenis Cespedes, carried the Mets down the stretch in '15, and the package to acquire him could be similar to what Detroit got in eventual Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa (who was then flipped as part of the trade to land another trade chip, Justin Wilson). Rumors swirled late Monday that a trade was in progress when Martinez was removed from Detroit's 10-2 win against the Royals in the sixth inning, but the club announced shortly afterward that Martinez exited early with lower back tightness.
Because the Tigers, as luxury-tax payers, can't get higher than a pick between the fourth and fifth rounds as compensation for Martinez should he sign elsewhere this offseason, he's pretty much certain to be dealt (which is why people freaked out when he left Monday night's game as a precaution with mild back tightness).
Here are the five teams that make the most sense for Martinez, though you never know who might step up and surprise.
1. D-backs: As evidenced again Sunday when they couldn't solve the Braves' Jaime Garcia, left-handed pitching is a problem for this D-backs lineup. As a team, Arizona is hitting just .223 with a .660 OPS off of southpaws. And left field is a pretty obvious area to upgrade.
Yasmany Tomas was having an uninspiring season (.241/.294/.464) even before he strained his groin and landed on the DL. Martinez wouldn't exactly provide a defensive boon, especially with the potential move across the outfield, but this is a home environment where his bat would play up.
2. Rockies: You might have guessed the Rox would contend this year, but you would have been hard-pressed to guess their midseason need would be more pronounced on the position-player side than in the pitching department. And it would have been doubly difficult to see the outfield as an upgrade target.
But Carlos Gonzalez's remarkable struggles (.214/.293/.328 slash through 77 games) have created a situation in which Martinez would be a compelling fit. If Martinez can hit 11 homers with a .748 SLG in 30 games at Comerica Park this season, imagine what he could accomplish at Coors Field.
3. Dodgers: They simply don't have the extreme struggles against left-handed pitching that they did a year ago, having leaped from dead last in the Majors in OPS against lefties (.623) to second-best (.819). So the need is not as pointed here as it might be for others on this list.
But that doesn't mean Martinez wouldn't make sense in L.A., given that the outfield depth took a hit with injuries to Alvin Toles, Andre Ethier and Franklin Gutierrez, Joc Pederson has struggled against southpaws and Cody Bellinger has filled in for an injured Adrian Gonzalez at first.
4. Cardinals: The Cards' first step will be determining if they are, indeed, a contender. It's obviously a delicate question for a franchise with so much pride but so little in the way of forward momentum this season (the Cards entered the week 6 1/2 games back in the National League Central). And even if John Mozeliak and company decide to add on, they're far more likely to seek out a more controllable player.
But if all we're talking about here is need and fit, then, yeah, Martinez is absolutely good for what's ailing them. The Cards currently have a "J. Martinez" atop their right-field depth chart, but it's Jose Martinez filling in for Randal Grichuk, They have gotten just a .739 OPS out of right field this season, and their lineup at large is slugging just .423. They need an imposing presence like Martinez in the heart of it all, but the timelines likely don't align here.
5. Royals: A Royals team that keeps hanging around in the AL Central and Wild Card picture is getting yet another up-close look at Martinez this week with the Tigers in town. Even if they like what they see, the Royals are in a precarious position when it comes to adding on, both in terms of the finances and the farm. As with the Cardinals, though, the pure baseball need is pretty clear.
The league has made some adjustments to Jorge Bonifacio and, on measure, the Royals have the worst OPS (.668) out of right field of any AL team. The struggles of Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler have given them the AL's worst designated-hitter production (.673 OPS). Martinez could give them valuable at-bats at either spot. And though the prospect price would be punitive for a club already thin on young talent, there's an argument for giving the current core every opportunity to succeed in '17 before the inevitable, painful rebuild begins.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.