The San Francisco Giants offseason priorities this winter are simple: Upgrade the bullpen dramatically and potentially add a left fielder. It looks as though free agent outfielder Gregor Blanco will no longer be with the team, and while Angel Pagan has been an important cog in the Giant offense for a number of years, at 35 and with the injury history that he has, the team is likely looking for a younger upgrade at the position. Perhaps someone with a bit more power?
Enter J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Martinez, who was called up to the Houston Astros in 2011 the day after Hunter Pence was traded to Philadelphia and subsequently released by the 'Stros in 2014, has become an all star with the Motor City Bengals. Of course there are a couple of problems to consider, and we'll get to those, but first let's look at why the Giants should consider trading for him. Here are his stats since joining the Tigers:
While injuries are a bit of a concern with the 29 year old, the production that he provides when he's in the lineup would be a huge boost for the Giants. Imagine those numbers in the middle of the batting order with Mac Williamson as the fourth outfielder for if/when an injury occurs. That's not a bad insurance policy to have on deck.
It goes without saying that Martinez would likely lead the team in home runs, given that the team leader in 2016 had 17, and his batting average, OPS and wRC+ would have also been tops on the club, while his on-base percentage would have ranked second behind only Brandon Belt. A power hitter that can lead the offensive charge and roams the outfield sounds like a perfect fit for the Giants. But why would he be available?
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers are not looking to spend any more money this offseason, and with a number of aging players due large sums of money, the goal is to shed some of that payroll while also getting a bit younger. While the Giants may not have the best farm system with which to make a deal, hence the team not adding a big name reliever at the deadline, they could have enough to land Martinez for a couple of reasons.
The first is that Martinez is only under contract for one more year before hitting free agency, which would be a risk for the Giants to send away more of their prospects for what could be just one year out of Martinez. That would also mean that the asking price will be lower, and in the team's wheelhouse. The other factor that could work in the club's favor is the fact that the team does have money to spend, and could potentially take on one of those aging contracts if it helps sweeten the deal for Detroit. Packaging Martinez and say, Anibal Sanchez (5.87 ERA in 2016), who is owed $16.8M in 2017 and has a team option for slightly less, or a $5M buyout for 2018, would be a package that would certainly get the Tigers attention. Martinez himself is due $11.75M. The $21 million that the team would likely pay Sanchez, including his opt-out, plus the nearly $12 million for Martinez is too hefty a price to pay, but if Detroit eats some of the money owed to Sanchez, say his opt-out and an additional $5 million, that would be a starting point.
Sanchez could be released or moved to the bullpen, if needed. He held a 3.88 ERA the first time through the batting order in 2016, so minimizing his exposure to the opposition could help him regain some of the form that landed him his big contract in the first place.
Back to Martinez. As I mentioned, there are a couple of downsides to adding him, and those would certainly have to be weighed in if the Giants were going to acquire him. The first is a relatively simple fix, potentially, and that is that he has played solely right field the last two seasons. It's highly likely that either Martinez or Pence would gladly slide over to left, but it would be a conversation that would have to be had.
The more worrisome detractor was his outfield defense from this past year. According to FanGraphs, Martinez allowed an extra 22 runs to score by their metric (DRS) and just wasn't very reliable in the field overall. That said, he had a decent year in right the previous season and actually saved four runs at the position. The Giants outfield defense this year was not good, and still many of the defensive stats that Martinez put up in 2016 would have ranked last on the club.
While everyone is holding their breath on the team signing Yoenis Cespedes if (when) he opts out, the competition will be too tough to sign him away from some of the clubs in bigger markets. As I wrote about last week, Colby Rasmus remains a solid rebound candidate offensively, and at worst will upgrade the outfield defense immensely. He'll also come at a discount after an off year in 2016.
Whether the hoops that Bobby Evans and company would have to potentially jump through would prove worth it if they were able to add Martinez is not a slam dunk. With some injury history and less than stellar defense, he could become a risky add on a one-year deal. But he would also provide a big boost to the offensive firepower.
What do you think the Giants should do? Let us know on Twitter @SFGiantsonScout.null