D-backs have options in outfield if J.D. Martinez signs elsewhere
Sure, the Arizona Diamondbacks would love to re-sign J.D. Martinez.
But with the free agent outfielder reportedly seeking a contract in the $200 million range, general manager Mike Hazen might have to get creative to replace Martinez’s production.
If the D-backs are unable to bring back Martinez here are some internal and external options Hazen could look at for outfield help.
Yasmany Tomas was the D-backs’ primary left fielder in 2016 and if it were not for an injury-plagued 2017, Arizona may not have traded for Martinez in the first place.
The D-backs committed $68.5 million over six years to the 27-year-old Tomas in December 2014, but unlike other Cuban sluggers, Tomas has yet to show much consistency at the plate and his below-average defense has cost the D-backs plenty of runs. Tomas’ -8 defensive runs saved in 2016 was the fifth-worst among left fielders who logged at least 450 innings.
Tomas did post an above league average Weighted Runs Created Plus (109) in 2016, with 100 being league average. The rate statistic is one of the best measures of a hitter’s true offensive value because it does not treat each hit the same. For example, a hitter should get more brownie points for a home run with the bases loaded in a close game and fewer for a lead off single in the first inning.
He hit 31 home runs and drove in 83 runs. But despite providing value with the bat, Tomas’ inferior defense made him a replacement level player at best (0.1 Wins Above Replacement).
If the D-backs trade Tomas, Socrates Brito could get a second chance to prove himself at the big-league level.
If Hazen is able to re-sign or reach an agreement during arbitration with David Peralta, Arizona could turn to the 25-year-old Brito to man the other corner outfield spot. Despite breaking his right hand in spring training, he hit .291 in 71 games at Triple-A Reno and his range would represent an upgrade on paper to Tomas.
Brito has also not stopped hitting. Back in his native Dominican Republic, Brito has hit .294 with a .357 on-base percentage, six doubles and five stolen bases for Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League.
Brito, however, has failed to bring this success to the major league level. He owns a .211 career average in 58 games (18 in 2015 and 30 in 2016) at the big league level with a less than desirable 30/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Even if the D-backs keep Tomas, Brito’s successful 2017 campaign will more than likely earn him an opportunity to at least earn a roster spot as a fourth outfielder.
Hazen could also re-sign free agent Gregor Blanco to an inexpensive one-year deal.
The 33-year-old veteran got on base at a .337 clip and hit a respectable .246 in 90 games last season, his first as a Diamondback after spending the previous five seasons in San Francisco.
But Blanco’s value went beyond his stat line. He has playoff experience and is known as a leader and great clubhouse guy.
Of course there is always a slim chance Martinez will re-sign.
The Detroit Tigers traded Martinez to the D-backs 13 days before the trade deadline, and he produced video game type numbers in Arizona. The 30-year-old outfielder hit 29 of his 45 home runs and had a terrific 2.6 WAR.
To put his impact in perspective, Martinez was arguably baseball’s most valuable hitter in the second half, as measured by wRC+. Martinez posted the majors best wRC+ in the second half (176) — one point higher than NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton — and a whopping 14 points higher than NL MVP finalist Joey Votto.
Unless his asking price drops into the $150 million dollar range, Arizona finds a way to get out from under Zack Greinke or Yasmany Tomas’ large contracts or the D-backs significantly increase their payroll, the D-backs chances of retaining him appear slim at best, especially if the Boston Red Sox and other big-market teams have interest.
If the D-backs do not have enough belief in their internal candidates, Hazen could look at a number of affordable free agent options.
Austin Jackson (31): If Hazen is worried about replacing Martinez’s production against lefties, Jackson crushed southpaws last season to the tune of a .352/.440/.574 slash line. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports projects Jackson to sign a two-year, $12 million deal.
Howie Kendrick (34): Kendrick can play left field and he hit .315 with the Nationals last season. The 34-year-old also has postseason experience and he made one error in 480.2 innings.
Curtis Granderson (36): Granderson can play serviceable defense and his power to right field can play at Chase Field. He hit 24 home runs to right last season.
Cameron Maybin (30): Maybin did not have the greatest year at the plate in 2017, posting a pedestrian 88 wRC+ but he was a solid depth piece for the Astros’ World Series run and posted a +2 DRS.
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