We’ve already rummaged through the pockets of the Tigers and looked for things we can use, and the conclusion was that J.D. Martinez was the only player who made sense for the Giants. It took a couple of weeks, but it’s finally here: the most obvious trade rumor of the offseason.
At the outfielder store, there is a power hitter who will cost about $125 million and a draft pick. On the shelf just below that, there’s a 36-year-old power hitter who can’t field, and he won’t come cheap, either. There’s an on-base guy who’s pretty good, but hardly transformative for a lineup in search of power. In a basket by the front, there’s a pile of Brandon Moss and a sign that reads “ALL SALES FINAL.”
But at the outfielder bazaar, there’s J.D. Martinez, who makes so, so much sense. He has 20-homer power and a three-year track record of hitting for average and working just enough walks to keep pitchers honest. His defensive numbers were atrocious last year (and the eyeball test confirmed the numbers), but they were also out of line from his previous seasons. I can’t look away from his average production over the last three years:
J.D. Martinez (162-game averages, 2014-2016)
He strikes out a bunch, but he’s somehow made himself into a high-average hitter who could keep the line moving, as it were. And those numbers were put up in Comerica Park, which is good for doubles but not home runs, so we wouldn’t even have to make much of a mental AT&T Park adjustment when plugging those numbers into the lineup.
You’re sold. “I’ll take one J.D. Martinez!”, you say, happy with your decision. But that’s part of the problem: I’m not sure if the Tigers are totally eager to trade him just yet. And if they are looking to trade him, will they need to be blown away with an over-the-top package? He’s 29 (good), and he makes just $11.75 million next year (great), but he’s a free agent after the season (ugh), so he’s a rental.
I have no idea what the going rate is for a player like this, someone who isn’t a superstar and might not be worth extending at market rates. I would suspect the market isn’t sure what the going rate is, either. While the strength of the Giants’ minor-league system is somehow outfielders all of a sudden, it’s likely that none of them will be ready, which means the team will be in this position next year if they go for a rental this year. When the Giants have made a trade recently, they’ve done it with future seasons in mind.
So that’s the catch. Are the Tigers committed to trading Martinez because they know they won’t re-sign him? Could be, and that would be a point in the Giants’ favor. But that would also mean other teams would be interested, and most of them would have shinier prospects to offer.
It’s hard to see the Giants trading Tyler Beede or Christian Arroyo for a rental, and it’s hard to see the Tigers settling for a lesser package that couldn’t be beat. It’s the Giants Trade Package Paradox: They might have the prospects to get a deal done, but only if other teams stop existing. It’s how they missed out on Andrew Miller. They just couldn’t compete. And I’m counting about a dozen teams who could use a power-hitting corner outfielder enough to give up something valuable, even for a rental.
The Giants’ best chance, then, is to hope these other teams want to focus on free agents like Mark Trumbo or Jose Bautista first, then exhaust their trade options second, while the Tigers want to get a deal done early so they can start their offseason overhaul. It’s a very narrow scenario, but sooner might be better for the Giants. And all of us.
I’m in on Martinez. The Giants are, too. The catch is a) how much he’ll cost in a trade and b) if the Giants can compete in that kind of scrum. Still, for now, appreciate it for what it is: a rumor that makes all the sense in the world. He would certainly look nice in a lineup with Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence, much less Brandon Crawford and a luckier Joe Panik, and ...
Dang it, there goes that optimism again. I thought I got rid of that.