In a rather surprising decision, the Rangers have optioned righty Chris Martin. The move was made, manager Jeff Banister suggested (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News), to “protect” the team’s rights to other members of the roster.
The Texas organization signed Martin last winter after he wrapped up a strong run in Japan. He’s promised only $4MM over the two years of his contract, with $550K in potential annual incentives tied to games finished, making him an affordable piece.
Through 24 innings this year, Martin owns a 4.13 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9. The 6’8 hurler, who’s now 32 years of age, has worked at around 95 mph with his fastball while generating a 9.2% swinging-strike rate. Earned run estimators are rather fond of his work to this point, with FIP (3.07), xFIP (3.48), and SIERA (3.25) all grading him as a quality reliever.
It seemed, then, that Martin profiled more as a trade target than a candidate to go down on optional assignment. Banister acknowledges as much, saying: “Chris did not do anything to warrant being optioned. It’s not the optimal move.” It’s still possible that Martin could be dangled over the summer, though presumably they’d have wanted to keep him throwing in the majors if that was a strong possibility.
Despite that assessment, the Rangers felt they had to option out Martin in order to maintain active roster space with first baseman Ronald Guzman being activated. As Grant explains, Rule 5 pick Carlos Tocci remains an obvious roster roadblock, so it seems the Rangers are rather committed to earning permanent rights over the young outfielder.