10:38pm: The Tigers have now announced that Martinez has been activated and that Adduci has been placed on the 10-day DL.
10:25pm: The Tigers will get one of the most productive bats in their lineup back tonight, as they’re set to activate right fielder J.D. Martinez from the disabled list, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. Detroit had been hoping to get Martinez a few more at-bats on a minor league rehab assignment, but an oblique injury to outfielder Jim Adduci instead forced the team’s hand a bit. Aducci will head to the 10-day DL as a corresponding roster move for Martinez’s reinstatement.
As Fenech points out, it’s been seven weeks to the day since Martinez suffered a lisfranc sprain in his right foot while making a sliding catch in Spring Training. The team originally projected an absence of five weeks, but Martinez required a bit more time to work up to running the bases and playing right field on a regular basis. He played the outfield on consecutive days during his abbreviated rehab stint, however, and is seemingly able to run the bases well enough to return to the lineup. Manager Brad Ausmus told Tigers reporters that Martinez is said to “feel fine moving around,” tough he noted that there could be “some residual soreness” in Martinez’s foot.
In Martinez, the Tigers will be getting back one of the American League’s premier sluggers across the past three seasons. Released by Houston late in Spring Training 2014, Martinez blossomed after inking a minor league deal with the Tigers. Since joining Detroit, he’s mashed at a .299/.357/.540 clip and slugged 83 home runs in 401 games. All of that has positioned him quite nicely as a free agent this coming offseason. While missing the first five weeks of the year certainly doesn’t do his free-agent stock any favors, Martinez remains a candidate to sign a contract worth more than $100MM in free agency this coming winter — a notion that would’ve been unfathomable when he initially signed with Detroit.
Of course, it remains to be seen how Martinez will perform on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. While both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating pegged Martinez as an above-average defender in right field back in 2015, those same metrics characterized him as one of baseball’s worst defenders in 2016. If there are any lingering limitations on his mobility in 2017 due to the lisfranc injury, that could understandably hamper his defensive play, which could, in turn, alter his perception on the free-agent market.
It’s also worth noting that the play of both Martinez and the Tigers will be worth monitoring as trade season approaches. The 17-16 Tigers are currently just a game out of first place in the AL Central, and assuming they remain in contention, the team could be content to keep Martinez and issue him a qualifying offer at season’s end. However, if the Tigers’ team performance begins to slip, then Martinez could find himself as a trade candidate.
Speculatively speaking, the 29-year-old could even find himself on the block if the Tigers are in the Wild Card hunt but appear long shots to take home an AL Central crown. The newly restructured collective bargaining agreement drastically reduced the compensation that teams will receive when free agents that decline a QO sign elsewhere; as such, the Tigers wouldn’t even be able to pocket a first-round pick as compensation in the event of a Martinez departure.
Though Martinez has yet to suit up for even a single game with the Tigers this season, he nonetheless landed at No. 6 on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings. If Martinez comes out of the gates strongly, that ranking could rise, as well, especially considering the struggles of several players that previously rated ahead of him (e.g. Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto, Masahiro Tanaka).