February 7: Andy Martino of SNY wrote this afternoon that while the Mets have indeed stayed in touch with Martinez, there’s still a significant gap between the sides financially.
February 6: The Mets have had continued dialogue with J.D. Martinez’s camp at the Boras Corporation, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post (X link). There’s no indication a deal is close or necessarily likely, but New York continues to evaluate the market for veteran hitters.
Last week, The Athletic’s Will Sammon reported the Mets were leaning towards relying on young bats like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos at the designated hitter spot. That came with the caveat that New York was amenable to jumping into the fray for a veteran free agent if the player’s asking price fell into the club’s comfort zone. It seems the front office is keeping in contact with Martinez regarding that possibility.
Martinez and Jorge Soler are the top unsigned DH options. While the latter has reportedly had recent discussions with the Giants, there’s not yet an agreement between the two sides. The Mets have only been loosely tied to Soler this offseason, while their reported interest in Martinez dates back to December.
A six-time All-Star, Martinez is coming off a strong year with the Dodgers. He connected on 33 home runs over 479 trips to the plate. His .271/.321/.572 batting line was his best since 2019. In a typical offseason, he might have received the qualifying offer from Los Angeles. The Dodgers knew they were preparing for a pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, so they didn’t chance a QO that could’ve tied up more than $20MM on another DH. Once Ohtani agreed to sign with L.A., that forced Martinez to look for a third team in as many years.
There are some concerns with Martinez, even as he profiles as one of the best offensive players still available. He’ll turn 37 in August and is essentially limited to DH. Martinez was never a good defensive outfielder and has only started one game in left field over the last two seasons.
Last year’s power resurgence also came at the cost of a few more whiffs. Martinez punched out in a personal-high 31.1% of his plate appearances. He only made contact on 67.5% of his swings, the lowest rate of his career. So long as he continues hitting the ball as hard as he did a year ago, the strikeouts aren’t a huge concern. They don’t leave much margin for error if he loses any bat speed, however.
During his last free agent trip, Martinez inked a fairly modest $10MM contract. That was below general expectations and it seemed as if he took a discount to go to L.A., where he reunited with his previous hitting instructor (and current Dodger hitting coach) Robert Van Scoyoc. His camp could look for a two-year deal this time around. Even if he’s limited to one-year offers, Martinez should surpass the $12.5MM that the Diamondbacks guaranteed Joc Pederson and could look to exceed the $23.5MM which Teoscar Hernández secured from the Dodgers.
The Mets are taxed at a 110% rate for any further spending. They’re well into the fourth tier of luxury penalization and facing the highest penalties as a third-time repeat payor. Steve Cohen’s ownership tenure has been marked by a willingness to spend, but the organization has taken a more targeted approach to free agency during David Stearns’ first offseason as baseball operations president. They’re trying to strike a balance of remaining on the border of playoff contention in 2024 while looking to ’25 as their target for a renewed full-fledged push.