By Gerard Lombardo – @redsoxfidelis
In what seemed to be an endless, touch-and-go ordeal with the offseason’s prized free agent, Dave Dombrowski finally landed the lauded slugger, bringing J.D. “just dingers” Martinez to the ball club. Some are reveling in the glory of finally having a middle of the lineup impact hitter, while others are questioning DD’s decision. So what are the facts regarding the newest member of our Sox?
What we know:
- The now-30 year old Martinez was originally drafted by the Twins in round 36 of the 2006 draft, but he decided against signing, and after attending Nova Southeastern University was selected in the 20th round by Houston in 2009.
- Bats right, throws right, plays both outfield corner positions, and is expected to primarily DH for the hometown team.
- His contract is worth $110M, a far cry from Scott Boras’ demands of $210M a few months ago. With an opt out after 2019, Martinez holds the option; not the Sox. He’ll earn a guaranteed $50M over the first two seasons, which slots him between Price and Ramirez as the second highest paid player on the roster based on AAV.
- JDM is being brought in primarily as a DH, creating a (good) logjam in the corner outfield/DH/1B spots. This ensures that if HanRam does indeed struggle, he won’t reach the batter’s box 497 times to vest his 2019 option; however, if Ramirez reverts back to his motivated, healthy self of 2016, Boston will now have a fresh rotation of Mookie-Beni-Mitch-Martinez-Ramirez to cycle through the LF/RF/1B/DH positions.
Why we should be excited:
- The signing extends the lineup in a major way. Boston no longer has a guessing game as to who will cleanup, nor will they have to ride the hot hand like we saw in 2017 when Benintendi cleaned up early on. We also weren’t strangers to seeing Mookie and Moreland hit there for a part of the season, and let’s not forget Ramirez earning a bulk of his AB’s in the four spot, where he put together a .421 SLG% and drove in just 39 runs. Cora has a wide range of options.
- Martinez has been a force at the plate from the start of 2014 to the close of 2017, and indeed fits the bill of a late bloomer. He’s the most credible threat Boston’s had since Ortiz’s retirement.
- Didn’t think we could compete with the Yanks? Think again. By not rushing and dumping $200 million into J.D. in an effort to counter New York’s Stanton acquisition, Dombrowski saved the team two years of an aging Martinez, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million dollars. This allows some flexibility to reach a contract extension with either Sale, Mookie, Kimbrel, or another one of Boston’s young major league talents.
Diving into the numbers:
- The former D-Back has been as productive as anyone in baseball over the last four seasons. Here’s how he measures up against Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton ’14-’17: 150 HR / 378 RBI / .271 BA / .939 OPS / 247 XBH / 568 K
Martinez ’14-’17: 128 HR / 350 RBI / .300 BA / 936 OPS / 262 XBH / 560 K
Trout ’14-’17: 139 HR / 373 RBI / .300 BA / .992 OPS / 290 XBH / 569 K
- Like Papi, it may take J.D. a little bit to warm up, as his April and May splits are overshadowed by June-September.
April: 14 HR / 54 RBI / .801 OPS
May: 26 HR / 74 RBI / .816 OPS
June: 31 HR / 96 RBI / .874 OPS
July: 22 HR / 71 RBI / .884 OPS
August: 29 HR / 92 RBI / .875 OPS
September: 30 HR / 89 RBI / .869 OPS
- A lot of the newcomer’s damage actually comes from the 5th hole, as he’s slugged .531 there with 68 dingers and 213 runs driven in; hitting 4th, JDM went yard 38 times in his career, compiling 103 career RBI and a slugging percentage 36 points fewer than he does hit 5th. However, twice the amount of his plate appearances have come hitting fifth, telling us he’s just as dangerous in the four spot, and can be counted on to hit as many (if not more) home runs and XBH.
- Martinez wore out the Sox, hitting .442 against the good guys over 57 AB’s, so needless to say it’s great to have him on our side. He has been plenty dangerous against the rest of the A.L. East, with an OPS of .900, .998, and 1.110 against New York, Toronto, and Baltimore, respectively. Against Tampa, hes gone yard five times and put together a respectable .451 SLG%.
What should concern us as a fan base?
Predictably, the signing has brought many critics out of the woodwork, as nothing is seemingly ever enough to appease an ever growing Red Sox Nation. Some feel the addition has handicapped Boston in it’s pursuit of the 2019 free agent class, as well as locking up the core of the team who have put together 186 regular season victories over the last two years, albeit just one in October. But with the addition of Martinez’s $25M in 2018, comes the subtraction of Ramirez’s 22.8 million in the next offseason, assuming he doesn’t exceed 497 at bats; but, there is a worry here financially. With Alex Cora today saying that Hanley Ramirez is his number 3 hitter –and that being confirmed by Rob Bradford– rosterresources.com projects HanRam to log well over 500 at bats, and Moreland assumedly coming off the bench. This would mean Boston would go into the offseason with over $50 million tied into the trio of sluggers.
There’s also been a small contingency of people who believe JDM will not match or exceed his production over the last four years. What should be taken into account in the influx of power that Martinez has provided is his changed batting stance which took place after Houston released him, subsequently resulting in him going to Detroit where he began to flourish.
The outfielder was quoted on diamondkinetics.com as saying “I had to be in the zone as long as possible. If I get my foot down earlier, I’m going to send the bat earlier. I have my hands so high, they have to come back down. If I bring my hands down a little more, I can be more into that slot that I need to be.”
Skeptics, it’s understandable to feel a player may not repeat a single season’s dramatic improvement. But four years straight? This guy’s not a fluke. Rather, a force to be reckoned with.
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