Among the top free agents on the market his offseason, one could argue that no player has had his market impacted more by the presence of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani than veteran slugger J.D. Martinez. After all, the Dodgers declined to extend Martinez a qualifying offer last month despite interest in a reunion due to the complications that would arise if the club landed both Martinez and Ohtani. With Ohtani now signed in LA on a record-shattering $700MM deal, its hard to imagine the Dodgers-Martinez reunion both sides appeared to have interest in coming together. To that end, Jon Heyman of the New York Post provided an update regarding Martinez’s market, suggesting that the Angels, Mariners, Mets and Diamondbacks could be among the teams in play for his services now that he’s unlikely to return to Chavez Ravine. Among that group, only Arizona had previously been connected to the veteran slugger this winter.
The Angels certainly make plenty of sense as a suitor for Martinez now that they know Ohtani won’t be returning to Anaheim in 2024. After all, the club has made it clear they have no plans to launch a rebuild this offseason as the club dismissed speculation that Ohtani’s impending departure could lead to a trade of Mike Trout this offseason. With Ohtani moving on in 2024 and a 2023 record of just 73-89, the club has a lot of work to do if it hopes to compete for a playoff spot next season.
Of course, improved health from the likes of Trout, Logan O’Hoppe and Anthony Rendon could represent internal avenues toward improvement, but it’s hard to imagine the Angels competing without an external offensive addition to help mitigate the loss of Ohtani. Martinez, who slashed .271/.321/.572 with 33 home runs and a 135 wRC+ last season, was outclassed only by Ohtani and Marcell Ozuna among regulars at DH last season and would go a long way toward filling the offensive hole left by Ohtani.
As for the Mariners, the addition of Martinez would surely benefit a lineup that has lost Teoscar Hernandez, Jarred Kelenic, Eugenio Suarez, and Mike Ford this offseason without a clear everyday replacement for any of those bats. What’s more, the club has shed plenty of payroll this offseason and has previously been connected to fellow righty slugger Jorge Soler this offseason. Martinez, 36, posted a stronger offensive season than the 31-year-old Soler in 2023 and could potentially be a more impactful addition to Seattle’s lineup next season.
With that being said, the Mariners have made clear their desire to improve their lineup’s contact skills headed into 2024, and Soler’s 25.7% strikeout rate figures to be much more palatable than Martinez’s 31.4% mark last season. What’s more, while MLBTR projected Soler for a $45MM guarantee that clocks in higher than Martinez’s $40MM figure on our annual Top 50 MLB free agents list, it’s worth noting that Soler’s relative youth could allow him to secure a longer contract than Martinez, which would tamp down the average annual value of the deal and potentially allow the Mariners to more room in their budget for further offensive additions.
The Mets are perhaps the most curious fit for Martinez among the listed teams. While the club received a mediocre 100 wRC+ from their DH slot (the 12th-worst figure in the majors) last season and subsequently parted ways with Daniel Vogelbach at the non-tender deadline last month, it’s worth noting that the club has plenty of young bats such as Mark Vientos and Brett Baty who could command playing time next season and that adding a 36-year-old DH to a club that’s more focused on the future than 2024 may not be the best use of the club’s resources. On the other hand, the only Mets regulars to post above-average seasons by measure of wRC+ last season who will remain with the club in 2024 are Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Nimmo. Adding the bat of Martinez to the middle of the club’s lineup next season would add some much-needed offensive firepower and help the club compete in what is shaping up to be the final year before Alonso heads into free agency next winter.