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ESPN’s Schoenfield: D-backs could still retain J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Arizona Diamondbacks would probably have to significantly increase their payroll to afford J.D. Martinez, but ESPN senior writer David Schoenfield has given them a chance to retain the free-agent slugger.

Schoenfield put together a list of where the 30-year-old Martinez could play in 2018. It included the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers. Even though several large-market teams are in the running for Martinez’s services, Schoenfield believes the D-backs have a chance at retaining him.

Martinez certainly loved their high-octane hitting environment. The Arizona lineup isn’t really that deep, as only Goldschmidt, Martinez, Jake Lamb and Chris Iannetta had above-average adjusted OPS figures (and Lamb can’t hit lefties).

Martinez posted a 168 OPS+ with 29 home runs and 65 RBI in 62 games as a D-back last season. From the time Martinez played his first game for the D-backs to the end of the regular season, he hit 28 percent of his team’s home runs and drove in 19 percent of his teams runs. That is a significant amount of production from one player.

In addition, Martinez’s 157 sOPS+ — the split OPS+ of a player when he faces left-handed or right-handed pitchers compared to major league split — against lefties was 59 points higher than what the D-backs averaged as a team (98 sOPS+). He hit 16 of his 29 home runs and recorded 34 of his 65 RBI at Chase Field.

There are plenty of reasons for the D-backs to re-sign Martinez. But while Martinez indicated he enjoyed his time in Arizona, he likely would not take a pay cut to return.

I wouldn’t rule out Martinez’s returning to Arizona — you could backload the contract to make the first two seasons less costly — but it seems unlikely that the Diamondbacks would be able to afford both Martinez now and Goldschmidt in two years.

With Martinez and his agent, Scott Boras, reportedly seeking seven years and $210 million, the D-backs’ chances appear slim at best.

Even if Arizona non-tendered a few of their 14 arbitration eligible players and Martinez’s asking price dropped into the $150 million dollar range for six years, more than half of the team’s payroll would go to Martinez and Zack Greinke. Unless Greinke is traded, the Diamondbacks would essentially have to choose between Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt.

If the teams Schoenfield mentioned are interested in Martinez, it would figure to lower the D-backs’ odds.

The Red Sox’s payroll will reportedly exceed $200 million and they have been mentioned as a front runner.

The luxury tax threshold could hamstring the Dodgers so Martinez could be viewed as a bargain over Giancarlo Stanton. But as Schoenfield believes the Dodgers will always be in the running for the most expensive free agents.

Likewise, Schoenfield said San Francisco coul sign Martinez for less money than acquiring Stanton and not have to give up any prospects. But the majority of Martinez’s home runs went to right-center and that is not an optimal spot for hitting long balls at AT&T Park.

Schoenfield said the Blue Jays should go after a big bat, but the Blue Jays do not have a lot of money to spend.

Schoenfield thinks the Rockies and Coors Field would be a “dream scenario” for Martinez, and while the Rockies appear to have payroll flexibility, it’s not necessarily enough to afford Martinez.

In the end, the Winter Meetings should give D-backs fans a great indication of their team’s chances to re-sign “Just Dingers.”

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