In a nod to the future, the Washington Nationals are looking at outfielder J.D. Martinez. Does the move make sense? A few things to consider below.
It is hard to believe someone who smashed 45 home runs and carried the Arizona Diamondbacks into the National League Wild Card game can fly under the radar. But, in this year of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Otani, Martinez has.
Washington wants power insurance in case Bryce Harper flees in free agency. Martinez provides power by the ton. When healthy, he slams baseballs.
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When you look at his 45 dingers in 2017 with both the D’backs and Detroit Tigers, it is amazing Martinez did that playing in only 119 games. He homered in every 10.86 plate appearances. If he played in 150 games, the trusty calculator estimates 57 kabooms. Astounding.
And, expensive to boot.
Martinez has plenty of suitors. The Boston Red Sox are desperate for a power bat. Any of baseball’s contenders could use someone who slashes .285/.342/.514 over his career. Martinez’s career .857 OPS translates to an OPS+ of 130.
Yep, Martinez will channel his inner Jerry Maguire and show himself some money., Scott Boras is his agent. Which explains why the Nats have an interest. Boras loves Washington.
However, affording both Harper and Martinez is difficult. Throw in Daniel Murphy hitting free agency and Anthony Rendon’s long-term contract and there is not enough relief money from a new MASN deal to make that work. Forget the competitive balance tax, you are staring at a $250 million payroll. Not happening.
Although Martinez would shine in the DC outfield, would Washington risk the awkward year with Harper and his replacement playing together? The chances of Martinez taking a one-year deal with an option are none. He will land a triple-figure deal.
Which leads to the next dilemma for the Nats.
With catching and another starter still the big needs heading into 2018, is it worth busting the payroll to offset 2019? Short answer is no.
If, and this is mere conjecture, the Nats know Harper will not return and Washington finds themselves like the Baltimore Orioles with Manny Machado, then you consider it. Machado is bound to get traded by July allowing the Orioles the chance to rebuild their farm system.
The relationship between Harper and Washington is better. No one is talking trade. His future remains uncertain.
Martinez is quite the score. An instant asset wherever he goes, the Nats love his power and offense. The money math makes this one tough. File this in the plausible, but unlikely folder.