Due to the negotiations of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the MLB Hot Stove has yet to heat up. With the winter meetings approaching and the CBA negotiations starting to progress, there are rumblings that teams are beginning to move forward with their offseason plans. One of the teams reportedly exploring the market is the New York Mets, who are searching for a power-hitting corner outfielder. Enter the Detroit Tigers, who happen to have one in the form of J.D. Martinez. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Mets see Martinez as a fallback option if they can’t extend current free agent Yoenis Cespedes.
It’s no secret that the Tigers are looking to cut payroll, and while he’s still extremely valuable on the field, trading J.D. Martinez is a good place to start. Martinez is set to make nearly $12 million in 2017 and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. With the Tigers unlikely to re-sign him, extracting value out of him in the form of a prospect or two would lower the payroll and give them something to look forward to in the future.
According to Heyman, Yoenis Cespedes is the Mets’ preferred choice, and who can blame them? Since heading to New York, he has hit .282/.348/.554 with 48 home runs and 130 RBI in 792 plate appearances. He was an All-Star last season, finished eighth in the MVP voting, and won a Gold Glove in left field with the Tigers in 2015. While his WAR total took a dip in 2016, a lot of that has to do with him playing nearly half of his innings in center field. While the Mets obviously want their superstar back, Cespedes is more likely to find a bigger contract elsewhere.
/Cues Al Avila stepping out of the shadows in the corner of Sandy Alderson’s office.
In July 2015, the Tigers traded Cespedes to the Mets in exchange for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. While many trades have a winner and a loser, this trade worked out for both organizations. Cespedes went on to become a star in New York, while Fulmer is the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. However, after opting out of his contract, Cespedes is now the hottest free agent on the market, and there’s some doubt that the Mets will be able to afford to bring him back.
The Tigers and Mets have recently matched up on a trade that worked out well for both organizations, so why not try it again? Both Cespedes and Martinez hit for tons of power, strikeout a lot, and have developed solid on base ability over the last three years. While Cespedes holds a clear edge in the defense department, J.D. is only one year removed from being a Gold Glove caliber right fielder. With as much money as Cespedes is expected to get in free agency, paying $12 million + prospects for one year of Martinez could be a worthwhile venture for the Mets, especially given that they don’t want to go without a middle of the order bat.
The Mets have a good farm system, and the Tigers could bring back a package similar to what they got for Cespedes. While they’re unlikely to unearth another Michael Fulmer in the deal, the caliber of prospects they return for J.D. would be similar. With Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz all entering 2017 healthy, the Mets will certainly not want to waste the season toying around with a meddling offense, especially considering that they don’t want to play catchup against the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Assuming Cespedes takes a large contract elsewhere, J.D. Martinez could prove to be their missing link.