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Raising Questions

Could the Phillies get J.D. Martinez?

j-_d-_martinez_on_may_14_2014This week, in honor of the upcoming Winter Meetings and the craziness that is baseball trade rumors, we’re presenting a few fun trade ideas the Phillies could indulge. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and act like these ideas aren’t nuts.

My piece the other day advocating for a Carlos Gonzalez trade was more wishful thinking. This scenario, however, is not so much wishful thinking, as J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers has been linked to trade rumors over the last week or so.

The Tigers, as of now, are in somewhat the same position the Phillies were in after 2012. Do they continue to add pieces for contention or blow the team up in an effort to rebuild? As we all know, the Phillies chose to add pieces for contention and that didn’t go so well. The Tigers, who have been a perennial playoff team this decade, have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, raising some questions on their stance as a franchise. Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez are great players, but they’re all in their mid-to-late 30s. Same goes with their rotation with guys like Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, who’re all commanding large contracts.

One guy that could be caught in the crossfires if Detroit blows up the team is J.D. Martinez. The outfielder broke into the league with the Houston Astros in 2011, but he made a name for himself with the Tigers over the last three seasons, notching his first and only all star appearance in 2015. Why would the Tigers want to trade an up-and-comer who just hit the prime of career? Three reasons:

  1. The Tigers need to get rid of some of the contracts they have on their books. As mentioned earlier, Cabrera, Kinsler, Verlander, Sanchez and Victor Martinez are going to make at least $12 million over the next couple of seasons. Cabrera and Verlander are on the hook for the most money, but Detroit even locked up Justin Upton, who’ll be making more than $20 until 2021.
  2. J.D. Martinez is making just under $12 million in a contract year in 2017, so, he’s going to get himself a payday as well, and that is something the Tigers may have to pass on. So why not extract some value now?
  3. The team wants to get younger. If they won’t be able to pay Martinez, why not trade him to get a couple decent prospects and to dump salary? That’s why Martinez has some value – because he’s still in his prime in a contract year with a team unlikely to bring him back.

In acquiring J.D. Martinez, a team could ease the prospect blow by taking on an unsavory contract. Sanchez (a 5.87 ERA in 2016; worth $16.8 million in 2017 and at least a $5 million buyout in 2018) or Mike Pelfrey ($8 million) are two options.

Should the Phillies be interested? Absolutely. Martinez would fill Pete Mackanin’s call for another “professional hitter,” but in my opinion, he’s more than that. In his three seasons in Detroit, Martinez earned a slash line of .299/.357/.540. The right-hander bursted onto the scene in 2014, blasting 23 home runs and driving in 78 in 123 games. His all star campaign in 2015 resulted in 38 for 102; last season’s numbers took a bit of a dive because of injury, but he still hit 22 home runs in 120 games.

The outfielder’s BABIP was an astounding .366 – another guy capable of doing serious damage when making contact. Martinez is above the league average in many offensive categories, and he has been a major contributor to the Tigers. A stat called adjusted batting wins estimates a player’s contribution to his team’s wins with his plate appearances. Over the last three years, the league average is four wins, but Martinez’s offensive play contributed in nine wins in each of the last three seasons. He’ll probably continue to contribute to a lot of wins in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.

What would it take to land the right fielder?

Well, let’s suggest the Phillies take on Sanchez’s contract in 2017. In doing so, the package to acquire Martinez would not deplete the farm too much. The Tigers need long-term catching help, and it’s likely they’d want a new second base option for when Kinsler moves on. Since the Phils will take on Sanchez, a trade of Cameron Rupp, Scott Kingery and a player to be named later may suffice. But all bets are off if the Tigers want Jorge Alfaro, since the Phils would take the expiring contract.

Acquiring Sanchez may not be that bad of a move anyway. If he pitches well, maybe the Phils could get something small for him at the deadline.

Either way, it’s worth bringing J.D. Martinez to Philadelphia.

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