The Dodgers have agreed to a one-year contract JD Martinezreports Robert Murray from FanSided (Twitter link) until a physical. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that Martinez will receive $10 million. Martinez is represented by Boras Corporation.
There wasn’t much publicity about Martinez’s journey through free agency, as just today another Heyman report on the Red Sox, who may be interested in re-signing the veteran slugger, was the first team to link with Martinez is since it came to the open market . While Martinez didn’t have many well-known suitors, the Dodgers operated quietly as ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets that LA”took aim at Martinez early in free agency.” Corresponding Fabian Ardaya from The Athleticthe Dodgers were also interested in Martinez before last summer’s trading close.
Martinez will end up in Los Angeles after all and will be reunited with some familiar faces. Former Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts is now, of course, a fixture at Dodger Stadium, and Martinez has a long history with Dodgers beating coach Robert Van Scoyoc. It was Martinez’s work with Van Scoyoc during the 2013-14 offseason that helped launch his career and made Martinez one of the better baseball bats of the last decade.
Since those fateful first sessions with Van Scoyoc and Craig Wallenbrock, Martinez has hit .295/.362/.547 with 258 homers across 4916 plate appearances with the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Red Sox. That production resulted in five All-Star appearances, three Silver Slugger Awards, a key role on Boston’s 2018 World Series championship team, and a big free-agent payday in the form of Martinez’s five-year, $110 million offseason deal with the Red Sox 2017-18.
The 2020 season was something of a runaway for Martinez as he struggled badly in the shortened season and was open with how the COVID-19 shelter protocols disrupted his usual routine. With this year perhaps simply being a write-off due to unusual circumstances, 2022 marked the first signs of a slowdown in Martinez’s production, although his 119 wRC+ over 596 PA was still solidly above the league average. Martinez still hit .274/.341/.448, but his homer total (16), isolated power count (.174), and slugging percentage were all his lowest in a regular season since 2013. Also, Martinez was hit hard on the percentage fell sharply from his career norms, even though his 41.7% total was still in the 60th percentile of all batters.
On paper, a move from Fenway Park to Dodger Stadium isn’t ideal for a player looking to regain his power stroke. However, the change of scenery and a reunion with Van Scoyoc make Martinez a very interesting catch-up candidate for 2023. Even if he “only” has one more season close to 119 wRC+, the Dodgers will be happy to tackle that kind of offensive upgrade within a lineup, who has already lost Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger to free agency.
2022 marked the first season that Martinez played exclusively as a designated hitter, and that will certainly be his starring role in Los Angeles, even as he picks up the glove for an occasional appearance as a corner fielder. Martinez doesn’t bring the defensive versatility the Dodgers typically favor, but the club has enough other versatile players that the roster’s overall flexibility won’t be affected much if Martinez gets the bulk of the DH at-bats. Max Muncy is now mostly switched between second and third base, with ChrisTaylor also able to play both positions and perspectives Miguel Varga in line for more play time at third base. Gavin LuxMeanwhile, he is slated to move from second base to replace Turner as a daily shortstop.
The addition of Martinez raises an obvious question as to whether or not he’s a free agent Justin Turner played his last game in Dodger Blue. Hey man tweets that the Dodgers are still interested in Turner, who also attracted interest from teams like the Marlins and Diamondbacks this winter. If Turner were re-signed, LA could field Turner at third base, move Muncy to second base, and keep Taylor primarily as a outfielder. Vargas would be the underdog in this scenario, although the Dodgers might prefer to either bring him in slowly or rely on more experienced players as the club chases another World Series ring.
Of course, there was also a sense that the Dodgers are poised to lean more than usual on Vargas and other up-and-coming players in 2023 given how the team might try to get below the $233 million competitive balance sheet tax threshold to duck. Martinez’s $10 million salary brings the Dodgers’ tax number to about $210.3 million, according to Roster Resource. It still leaves LA with more room to spend, though Trevor Bauer‘s appeal against his two-year suspension is large as an arbiter is expected to rule on the appeal sometime before the end of January. If the Dodgers end up having to pay part or all of the salary for the two years wiped out by Bauer’s suspension, it could bring them close to or over the CBT line again.
To that end, Martinez’s contract is relatively cheap enough that it’s not necessarily indicative of how the Dodgers might think the umpire will rule. With that appeal still being an X-factor for the rest of the Dodgers’ winter business, they might have felt the investment in Martinez was still worth it given his appeal and comeback potential.
The one-year term is also somewhat notable given that MLBTR Martinez forecast $30 million for a two-year pact. It could be that Martinez took the shorter deal to play for a contender and reunite with Betts and Van Scoyoc, or he and agent Scott Boras could view this as some kind of pillow deal. If Martinez recovers from his 2022 season, that would line Martinez up for a larger multi-year pact next winter, even as he enters his season at the age of 36. The Dodgers are yet to sign a player on a multi-year contract this winter because Martinez, Noah Syndergard, Shelby Millerand the newly signed Clayton Kershaw will only be signed over the 2023 campaign.