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AZ SnakePit Round Table: Whither J.D. Martinez?

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Will he ever sign? And will it be with Arizona?

Divisional Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What percentage chance do the D-backs have to sign J.D Martinez, and why?

Keegan: I place the odds at 25% or less. The willingness of this ownership group to enter that financial realm, $150-$160 million, just isn’t there. It also does not make sense to sign him to anything more than a 3 year contract in Arizona. He has the best contract negotiator in baseball as his agent, and Arizona’s biggest competitor for his services is Boston. I think that Boras takes whatever deal Arizona is offering to Boston, and if Boston really wants Martinez that bad they will find a way to outspend Arizona.

Michael: 10%. I do think he could cross the 40 HR threshold playing in Chase Field and a full season with 90 games in the 2 most hitter friendly parks in baseball, but is a below average defender in the outfield. The only team reported to offer a 5-year deal is the Red Sox. I see it as Martinez either taking the Red Sox offer or sitting out Spring Training in general.

Makakilo: 5%. The main reason is that $100+ Million is life-changing salary and it would surprise me if the D-backs offer more than a 1-year deal.

The scenario: Significant bad feelings develop between the Red Sox and Martinez. Either the Red Sox pull the trigger on plan B, or Martinez decides that money is less important than being a D-back and displaying his hitting at Chase Field. As Keegan noted, his agent Boris negotiates very well which is a significant obstacle. Martinez strongly tells his agent to make a deal quickly with the D-backs.

Jim: Still not very likely. I think a factor in our favor is Arizona wants him to play the outfield, rather than just DH, which appears to line up with what Martinez wants to do. But the downside of that, is this makes him more valuable to the Red Sox, because they can rate him based purely on hitting, while we have to take the defense into account too. We also have the “known quantity” factor: he has been here, and by all accounts enjoyed playing for Arizona.

If these were two teams with equal resources, I’d say we were the likely favorites. But they aren’t, so the question then becomes how many millions is JD prepared to sacrifice for these benefits? And perhaps equally important, how much will Bora$ let him sacrifice? I think the answer is “not enough,” and we’re a 10% long-shot. Admittedly, that’s 10% more than I’d have expected us to have, the weekend before pitchers and catchers report...

How large a contract would you give him?

Keegan: If I’m Mike Hazen, Yeonis Cespedes’ 3 year $75 million offer with a player opt out after the first season is at the top of my value range. That would line up with the conclusion of Zack Greinke’s contract and Yasmany Tomas’ deal should he choose to opt in to his final 2 seasons (please don’t). If ownership is willing to take payroll to that new height, they have to be willing to pay to retain Paul Goldschmidt when he becomes an unrestricted free agent himself. Anything more than that and the 2020’s will be a long decade to be a Diamondbacks fan because they will be in a fairly deep financial hole.

Michael: Something like the Cespedes deal from 2016 makes sense from the Diamondbacks perspective although I don’t see Martinez’ FA value ever increasing. Something like 3/$80M with $20M, $25M, $25M salaries and a $10M signing bonus since we’re adjusting for inflation here. If the Dbacks are serious about getting Martinez, they probably need a higher AAV than the $25M in the Red Sox offer.

Makakilo: I would offer him a 1 year $35 Million contract. Looking beyond this season, my priority is to acquire a center fielder to add depth in case of injury and to replace Pollock if he is not extended.

Jim: The key things for me are not going more than three years under any circumstance, because as we’ve seen time and time again, it’s the last couple of seasons for long-term contracts to players in their thirties that tend to really burn a team. Front-load it, to take advantage of the team’s current window of opportunity, with the MLBAM money coming in. And, besides, with A.J. Pollock a free-agent after this season, and Goldschmidt after next, that window is closing. I like Makakilo’s idea of a really fat one-year deal, see if he can be lured in with that, and re-enter the market next year. But, in his shoes, I’d be worried that I’d be a year older, and there’s no guarantee teams’ attitudes towards those kind of contracts would have changed.

What contract do you think he’ll eventually get?

Keegan: Ask me at a later time. This year’s free agent market is… weird. I think Martinez will end up in Boston for 5 years close to $135 million.

Michael: I think he ends up settling for the Red Sox’s 5/$125M offer the day before full camp workouts.

Makakilo: 5 years and $125 Million. The simplest prediction, with the fewest assumptions, is that the Red Sox contract is the highest dollar amount, and it will not change. Martinez will not accept a lesser contract because of his risk of injury.

Jim: Yeah, I can see things eventually settling down, and I have a feeling that by Opening Day, we could well be looking back at the current furore and wondering what the fuss was all about. We saw Darvish signed this weekend, and that may signal the start of a busy week. Really, given the projections have Martinez projected as a three-win player overall for 2018 - and presumablyaqwsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssssssssssssss [sorry, cat just walked over my keyboard!] presumably less down the road, an AAV of $25 million seems perfectly fair.

If we don’t get him, who do you see as credible fallback options?

Keegan: I don’t really like the term “fallback option” because I don’t think our 2018 season hinges on whether he signs with us or not. I truly feel that money could be better spent by extending A.J. Pollock or buying out some of Robbie Ray’s arbitration years. Pocket that money for the massive 2019 free agent class.

Michael: Jarrod Dyson would be a pretty decent fit as a 4th outfielder in the free agent market. I’m not sure about the trade market with outfielders although Dyson’s speed and defense plays in Chase Field’s big outfield. I’d consider a LF platoon of him and Tomas. The team could also look at Cameron Maybin and plug him into LF for 2018. Given how Boras is clogging up the FA market, I don’t see Carlos Gonzalez as a reliable option although I like that fit too.

Makakilo: The D-backs discussed trading for Domingo Santana but were unable to reach a deal. He remains an option. In 2017, his hard hit percentage was 39.7%. The upsides are he is not a free agent until 2022, and he has been compared to Justin Upton and Dave Winfield. He could bat next to Paul Goldschmidt! The downsides are his defense and uncertainty about whether his BABIP will regress.

A better option would be to acquire a center fielder, as talked about here. Four credible options with a balance of defense and offense are Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips, Cameron Maybin, and Tyler Naquin.

I see four internal options: Socrates Brito, Raymond Fuentes, Chris Owings (switching from infield) and Christian Walker. If an external acquisition fails, Christian Walker would be a credible choice for two reasons.

  • He has the highest percentage hard hit balls (57.1% compared to the others at 26.4%/28.4%/31.7%).
  • “...In Walker’s last two minor-league seasons, he played a total of 833 innings at left field. Ron Johnson, coach of Norfolk Tides, said that Christian Walker picks good routes, breaks well, and has good instincts. Christian Walker said he spent a lot of time and energy perfecting left field [in AAA], just like he did for first base.” Makakilo, Nov 2017

Jim: It depends on whether they are looking for a short-term fix, or a long-term solution - most obviously needed in center field. I don’t think any of the latter will be found in free-agency: it’s going to have to be a trade, with Brandon Drury and Patrick Corbin the most obvious trade chips. But if we just want a quick plugin, the two Carlos’s, Gomez and Gonzalez, and Jon Jay, are likely about the best still available. The good thing is, it wouldn’t take much to be an improvement over what we have after Pollock and David Peralta.

PECOTA pegged the D-backs at 86 wins. Right now, is that too high, too low or about right?

Keegan: About 2 wins too high for me. The pitching clinic that the Arizona Diamondbacks put on last season was historic and not likely to be repeated. I also tend to look at the other teams in our division and what is going on with them when trying to determine how I think the D’backs will do. Before any offseason moves began, it would be difficult for me to say that the San Francisco Giants would be nearly as awful as they were in 2017. While I don’t feel that the additions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria make them immensely better as a team, positive regression from their entire unit as a team will come at the expense of rival teams in the National League West. I think that negatively impacts the Colorado Rockies the most, and I’m really hoping that their massive overpay for bullpen arms blows up in their face. The Giants’ improvement should fill the vacuum of wins left behind by Arizona and Colorado. 2nd through 4th place in the NL West should be an interesting fight.

Michael: The consensus across the board seems to be mid 80s with this team. I have them at 85 wins, but I’ll say how they can get to 90. The starting pitching, especially the younger guys (Ray, Godley, Walker, Banda) have to step up in 2018. Greinke is going to have to put up another season like 2017. I’m less worried about the pitching and more concerned about the offensive capabilities of this team, as offensively they’ve been around average the last few seasons. You’re looking at above average bats with Goldschmidt, 1st half Jake Lamb, Pollock, Avila, and Peralta. Marte could jump to league average this year if he continues to improve. Overall in that category I see them somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of park adjusted offense. If the team can put up an ERA- of 80 and a wRC+ of 100 across the season, there’s the path to 90 wins and the higher WC seed. It would take insane injury luck for this team to win the division, but crazy things have happened before.

Makakilo: PECOTA’s 86 wins is too low. The D-backs had 93 wins last season! Although there are some uncertainties, the most likely scenario is another 93 win season. My thinking follows:

  • Three losses have been addressed or will be addressed: Iannetta (catcher) was replaced with Avila. Rodney (closer) will be replaced by the best of Bradley, Boxberger, Hirano, or Sherfy. The D-backs are looking to add an outfielder to replace JD Martinez. I am confident that an addition will happen eventually, and that the addition will positively impact the team.
  • Pitching was awesome last season. The starters are back this season. I like the depth – Anthony Banda in AAA, Shelby Miller could return by late in the season, and Duplantier who could advance to AAA very quickly. Also, the additions to the bullpen have great upside potential.
  • Eight of the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training have MLB experience! The D-backs have shown a talent for identifying players who are on the edge of breaking out and contributing to the team! I predict more than one will make the team, although maybe not immediately out of spring training.
  • I am excited that Ketel Marte could emerge as the D-back shortstop with the best balance of offense and defense.
  • A wild card is the impact of Yasmany Tomas. He has great potential to exceed expectations, which are low. PECOTA projected left field as minus 1 WARP – which is low enough that it can be exceeded several ways.
  • The Dodgers and the Giants will stay under the luxury tax threshold, improving the outlook for the other teams in the NL West Division. PECOTA projected the Dodgers to drop to 99 wins this season. FanGraphs projected the Dodgers to drop to 94 wins this season. Maybe the D-backs have a long shot at first place in the Division!

Jim: It is worth pointing out that, by PECOTA, 86 would still be good enough for a wild-card spot. I do think the team has lost a few steps, with the departure of Martinez, Iannetta and Rodney: our replacements don’t quite seem likely to be as productive. However, our Pythag record last year was 96-66, and I don’t see the team as having lost ten games. We would need the rotation to be at or near last year’s performances, but I think in most cases, that should be doable: while their FIPs were all higher, in most cases it was by less than a dozen points. Ray (2.89 vs. 3.72) and Walker (3.49 vs. 4.04) were the biggest outlier, and they’re both young enough, regression should be balanced with age improvement.