When it comes to offseason trade rumors, one name has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue: J.D. Martinez. He seems to be the most talked about candidate as a trade option, and for good reason. He’ll be a free agent in 2017, and he’s likely to command a sizable contract when he hits the open market. With Yoenis Cespedes making history as the highest paid outfielder in history, there’s no doubt a hard-hitting star in the making like Martinez will fetch an impressive salary when he achieves free agency. There has never been a better or smarter time for the Tigers to move him.
The Tigers, it seems, agree. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, “One rival GM said he believes J.D. Martinez is “all but certain” to be traded based on their talks.”
This can be taken with a slight grain of salt for a couple reasons. One being that a rival GM seems unlikely to know precisely where Al Avila stands on his trade decisions, and could just be stirring up the rumor mill. Another being that off-the-cuff remarks are hardly the same thing as hard fact, and just saying something is “all but certain” doesn’t mean paperwork has been signed.
According to Jon Morosi, one specific team that’s been showing some interest in Martinez is the Philadelphia Phillies.
Jeff Passan suggests that the San Francisco Giants might also be sniffing around for an outfielder.
Sources: Giants are exploring all avenues for a power outfield bat. Among those they've talked about: J.D. Martinez, who Tigers would deal.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 2, 2016
Why should the Tigers consider trading Martinez? For starters, thanks to the CBA, the new luxury tax threshold is $195 million, which the Tigers were well over last season, spending $216 million on payroll. This gives Detroit the unpleasant distinction of being the current payroll leader in the MLB at nearly $180 million, a title they certainly won’t want to maintain if they hope to avoid the crushing taxes that come with being over the threshold. Getting rid of Martinez now, and getting back younger, cheaper players or viable prospects would be a huge boon to the Tigers, who desperately need to cut costs.
J.D. Martinez is an attractive option to prospective buyers. In the past three seasons with Detroit the 29-year-old has had an average of .299/.357/.540 and an average WAR of 3.6. He’s hit over 20 home runs a season with Detroit, crushing a monster 38 out of the park in his all-star, Silver Slugger 2015 season. Moving him somewhere like the Yankees would increase his odds of hitting the long ball, but other rumored locations like the Dodgers would be less favorable venues for his power. Martinez is most valuable at the bat, which would likely be the primary reason a team would make a move for him. His fielding numbers have usually hovered around the average, though in 2016 his numbers plunged into concerning areas. His DRS was a -22 and his UZR was a -17.2 (a -15 is categorized as “awful”). These are career-low numbers for him, and definitely something prospective teams would want to keep an eye on.
All told, even poor fielding numbers won’t keep teams from showing interest in Martinez. And while it’s best to take all “I heard it from a rival GM” rumors with a big grain of salt, it does seem more and more likely that J.D. Martinez will not be with the Tigers next season.