Saturday, April 1 2023
Boston Red Sox's J.D. Martinez plays against the Kansas City Royals.

J.D. Martinez bats during a game between the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals on Sept. 17. Martinez agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers on Saturday. (Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

The Dodgers added more veteran depth to their lineup Saturday, agreeing to a one-year, $10-million contract with designated hitter J.D. Martinez, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation who are unauthorized to speak publicly.

The deal, which is pending a physical, is the latest short-term, low-cost move that the Dodgers — who have bypassed the top of the free-agent market despite clearing more than $100 million of payroll this winter — hope will prove to have high upside in 2023.

Martinez offers such potential. A five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, the 35-year-old batted .274 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs last year.

That was good for a .790 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, which ranked well above league average. However, it also was Martinez’s lowest in a full season (excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020) since 2013. Martinez also cooled off during the second half of the season, when he batted just .233 with a .701 OPS.

The Dodgers have liked Martinez for a while. They made a push to trade for him at the deadline this past summer, but weren’t willing to meet Boston’s asking price.

Now, they’ll add him to a lineup that lost Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger in free agency, and could still see current free agent Justin Turner depart, as well, though the club has maintained interest in a reunion with its longtime third baseman.

Martinez has other ties in the Dodgers organization.

Co-hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc was instrumental early in Martinez’s career. When he was a private instructor, Van Scoyoc helped remodel Martinez’s swing, turning the then-floundering slugger into one of the sport’s most prolific power hitters.

Martinez is also a former teammate of Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts. In 2018, they were the two best hitters on a Red Sox team that defeated the Dodgers in the World Series.

Boston's J.D. Martinez runs toward first after hitting a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 5.Boston's J.D. Martinez runs toward first after hitting a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 5.

Boston’s J.D. Martinez runs toward first after hitting a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 5. (Steven Senne / Associated Press)

Martinez, who finished fourth in American League MVP voting that season, has seen his stats regress in recent years.

His OPS, batting average and home run and RBIs totals have declined in every full season since. He also had one of the higher strikeout and whiff rates in the majors last season, ranking among the top third in both among qualified big league hitters.

Still, his presence should bolster the Dodgers’ ever-changing 2023 roster.

Only three of the club’s current hitters had a better OPS than Martinez did last season. He also provides some insurance in the event Justin Turner isn’t retained — which seems like a greater possibility in the wake of Martinez’s signing — or rookie Miguel Vargas struggles in what should be his first full MLB campaign.

With Martinez on the books, the Dodgers‘ estimated luxury tax payroll is at $210 million, according to Fangraphs’ Roster Resource database.

That leaves the team $23 million shy of the league’s first tax threshold. Given that most of the winter’s top free agents have been acquired— including shortstop Dansby Swanson, whom the Dodgers had some interest in before he reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $177-million with the Chicago Cubs earlier Saturday afternoon — it appears increasingly likely the team won’t surpass the league’s first tax threshold, which would mark the first time since 2020 it wouldn’t be on the hook for any tax penalties.

Instead, the Dodgers have turned to less-expensive veterans such as Noah Syndergaard, Shelby Miller, Jason Heyward and, as of Saturday, Martinez, to attempt to replenish a roster undergoing continued transition this offseason.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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