Slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez setting himself up for a monster payday this offseason.
Hidden away out in the desert of Arizona — with criminally-underrated superstar Paul Goldschmidt — Diamondbacks outfielder J.D. Martinez is having himself a special season. With all of the attention placed on Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton and his chase for 62 home runs, it’s been lost on most of the country that Martinez has matched him nearly homer-for-homer since early May.
Following his epic four-homer barrage on Monday night, Martinez now has 34 home runs on the season in a mere 97 games. In the second half, he has homered once every nine plate appearances. Stanton has left the yard once every eight times up. Stanton’s overall .302/.417/.810 line since the All-Star Game blows Martinez’s .268/.350/.707 triple slash out of the water, but there is no denying both players are having historic seasons.
Mark McGwire holds the all-time MLB record for AB/HR at 10.61, Barry Bonds holds the single-season record at 6.52, and nine of the top-ten seasonal marks came during the Steroid Era. In the second half of 2017, J.D. Martinez has homered once every 7.85 at-bats. Yes, we’re comparing a half-season mark to full-season records, but McGwire and Bonds have ever homered at a faster clip. Projected out to a full 162-game season, Martinez in the range of a 56- or 57-homer season and just turned 30.
In a relatively weak class of free agents, Martinez has set himself up to stand head and shoulders above the rest of his peers. Over the past four seasons, he is a .297/.359/.562 hitter with 117 home runs and 325 RBI. On a per-162 basis, Martinez has been good for nearly 40 home runs and 110 RBI. He has quietly blossomed into one of the best pure power hitters in baseball with very little fanfare. Over the past four years, Martinez is tied for sixth in the league with a wRC+ of 146. He is four points behind Bryce Harper and four points ahead of superstar teammate Miguel Cabrera.
With so many power hitters around the league today selling out completely to pull the ball, Martinez is a breath of fresh air with power to all fields. He has few holes in his swing and commands the strike zone well. Martinez is just an impressive hitter to watch, especially when he is blasting balls out to the opposite field like few in the league can.
MLB free agency has been a tricky beast to figure out the past two offseasons. With the influence of sabermetrics on personnel decisions increasing at an exponential pace, teams have been reluctant to pay up for power hitters as they enter their thirties. Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has been the lone exception, finding what appears to be an ill-fated seven-year deal thanks to the meddling of owner Peter Angelos. Last winter, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo both found out the hard way that pure power no longer equates to $100-million contracts.
Martinez is a young 30-year-old in terms of MLB mileage already on his body. The fractured elbow that kept him out last season from June 17 to August 3 was a freak injury, as was the foot sprain that landed him on the DL until May 12 this year. When Martinez is in the lineup, he is one of the most consistent power hitters in the league.
The 2017-18 MLB free-agent class is largely devoid of great power sources. Eric Hosmer will land the biggest long-term deal thanks to his age. Martinez will command the largest contract of all the outfielders on the market unless Justin Upton elects to exercise his opt-out clause and walk away from a guaranteed $88.5 million. Even then, Martinez has been significantly better than Upton over the past four years, with an OPS nearly 100 points higher and an OPS+ 23 points better.
After flaming out as a Houston Astros prospect, Martinez exploded onto the scene with the Tigers four years ago. He should be able to command a nine-figure deal over the next five years, but his free-agent case may be complicated by the once-in-a-generation class coming up after the 2018 season that includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Either way, Martinez has set himself up to cash in this winter, especially if he heads back to the American League.