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J.D. Martinez can’t possibly be the backup plan to Giancarlo Stanton

He fits the Giants in so many ways, but he doesn’t fit them in several more.

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San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks
This would have been a fly ball to medium-right field at AT&T Park. Keep that in mind.
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Waaaaay back in August, there were Giancarlo Stanton-to-the-Giants rumors, and one of the main instigators was Bob Nightengale. He stuck with those rumors, and in October, he doubled down in an interview with KNBR.

Yeah I still believe they are (the favorites for Stanton), and I’d be shocked if they don’t have Stanton or J.D. Martinez playing for them next year

I didn’t believe in the Martinez idea then, and I really haven’t given it much thought since then. But in a short piece about Larry Baer driving the Stanton pursuit, Jon Heyman dropped this:

J.D. Martinez is seen as the likely backup plan should they not get Stanton

So I suppose it’s something that different writers are assuming. It’s also something I’m still not buying, and here’s why.

The first is that the Giants aren’t interested in Stanton just because he hits dingers. They’re interested in him because he’s a name, a person who sells tickets and merchandise. He’s someone they can put on one of those banners that hangs halfway down the outside of AT&T Park, which would make casual fans drive by and think, “That’s right! They have that guy. I should buy tickets to see that guy.” He would chase 500 home runs in a Giants uniform, and with a little health and luck, he could chase bigger numbers than that. He would help them contend in the short term, and he would be a gate attraction in the long term.

J.D. Martinez is a very good player with a name that’s straight out of Bases Loaded 2. That same banner would make the casual fan say, “I don’t know who any of these guys are anymore.” That might not be fair, and you know that I’ve been on the Martinez bandwagon before it was cool. But the Giants are looking for an organizational foundation. Martinez should be a really good hitter for three or four years. That’s something a lot of teams need; it’s not something that will put the Giants over the top, both as a team and as a product.

The salary is onerous, too. Whereas there’s at least a slight chance that Denard Span could be sent over in a Stanton deal to help with the 2018 competitive balance tax bill, Martinez’s average salary would plop right down on the middle of the tax, and there’s nothing the Giants could do about it. A $25 million contract would be roughly a $35 million contract with the tax. I could see that with Stanton, who would be as much for 2024 as 2018. Less so for Martinez, who is a total win-now player.

Then we get to the defense. One of the major reasons the Giants lost 98 games is because of their dreadful outfield defense, which included Aaron Hill and Eduardo Nuñez (!) in left field, and Martinez has been rough in right field. There’s limited data on him as a left fielder, which is both comforting and terrifying, but there’s almost no way that he’s even an average defender. If the Giants get someone like Jarrod Dyson or Billy Hamilton, I can almost see it.

How about Martinez’s right-handed power? That’s a great thing for AT&T Park, right? Yes ... and no.

The black dots are home runs. By my calculations, it would appear that Martinez would have hit ... [does hours of calculations] ... three home runs if he were on the Giants last year. Give or take.

How about the most important part? Martinez would have to want to come to AT&T Park. He gets to decide where he plays! Even if he’s not worried about his next contract, which he probably still is, he’ll be worried about his legacy. Nobody wants to be a hidden “He was a much better player when you put him into the proper context” All-Star. Just ask Brandon Belt, who is regularly maligned on talk radio, even though he’s been one of the team’s more reliable hitters for years. At the end of five or six years, Martinez will have a baseball card filled with numbers. He’d like those numbers to be awesome without the help of a yeah-but.

There are positives, of course. It’s still right-handed power. High average. He wouldn’t cost a draft pick. Martinez is still a fun, exciting player who would help the Giants win more baseball games than last year. I’m a huge fan.

But for several reasons — marketability, age, his ability to help a team four years from now, defense, opposite-field approach — I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Giants miss on Stanton and then immediately pivot to Martinez. In another year, with another roster, after a more promising season, I could see it. Not this one, though.

Stanton or bust. Or, Stanton or Bruce. Perhaps more realistically, Stanton or McCutchen. But not Stanton or Martinez. There are a lot of ways the Giants can get better this winter, but this isn’t one of the likelier ones.