Right-hander Nick Martinez has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Padres and is now a free agent, reports Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune (Twitter link). Martinez originally signed a four-year, $25.5MM contract on the heels of a breakout in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. That contract paid him a $2MM signing bonus and $4MM salary in 2022, and he’ll also receive a $1.5MM buyout on what’s technically a 2023 player option.
In essence, Martinez is opting out of a remaining three years and $18MM, although Robert Murray of FanSided tweets that he and the Padres have been discussing a restructured deal in recent days, so it’s possible a reunion could come together before long.
This morning, Dennis Lin of the Athletic reported that one idea under consideration in those negotiations would’ve been to remove future opt-out possibilities from Martinez’s deal. The four-year guarantee he signed upon coming over from NPB afforded him opt-out chances after each season, giving the former Ranger hurler plenty of long-term contractual leverage. Now that he’s triggered the first of those clauses, he’d have to renegotiate an entirely new deal — presumably one that pays him more than the $18MM he bypassed this evening.
San Diego president of baseball operations A.J. Preller acknowledged to Lin that Martinez would prefer to work as a starting pitcher. He started 10 games this year but otherwise came out of the bullpen 37 times. He fared better in relief and Lin writes that some within the organization believe he’s better suited for such a role, but giving Martinez at least the opportunity to crack the rotation could aid San Diego’s efforts to keep him around for the next few seasons. The Friars have Joe Musgrove under contract for five years, but Blake Snell and Yu Darvish are headed into the final seasons of their respective deals. Meanwhile, Sean Manaea and Mike Clevinger are now free agents.
Now that he’s officially a free agent, Martinez and his reps at Octagon can field offers from a number of teams. Others could more definitively promise him a rotation opportunity. Martinez posted a 4.30 ERA with a 20.4% strikeout rate and an elevated 11.7% walk percentage through his ten starts. He had an excellent 2.67 ERA in 54 innings out of the bullpen, although his improved performance in shorter stints wasn’t tied to any kind of huge uptick in his raw stuff. Rather, Martinez was a much better strike-thrower in those situations, only walking 6.4% of opponents.
Martinez joins a deep class of starters capable of stepping into the middle or back of a rotation. Others in a similar tier include his now former teammate Clevinger, Michael Wacha, Ross Stripling and Jose Quintana.