J.D. Martinez: One of the greatest mid-season moves in MLB history

Back on July 18th the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for prospects Sergio Alcantara, Jose King, and Dawel Lugo. While they made this move to bolster their already potent lineup and chances at the top NL Wild Card spot, I’m not sure they even knew how potent a bat they were getting when Martinez came over.

While Martinez was putting together an already promising season for the Tigers with 16 HRs, 39 RBIs, and a line of .305/.388/.630 in 57 games with Detroit, since coming to Arizona he’s hit the ball with absolutely no regard for human life. In just 49(!!!) games with the Dbacks, Martinez has hit .291/.363/.736 with 23 HRs and 49 RBIs.

Add in the fact that Martinez’ season didn’t even begin until May 12th due to a foot injury and we’re talking about a 50+ HR, 120 RBI+ season out a man who was picked up off the scrap heap by Detroit back in 2014 after he was released by the lowly Astros (who by the way lost 92 games that year).

In terms of the greatest mid-season trade deals in MLB history, Martinez has certainly thrown himself into the conversation. However, to give us some historical perspective on previous mid-season trades in terms of offense, let’s compare Martinez’ numbers thus far side by side with two other well regarded trades: Carlos Beltran from Kansas City to Houston in 2004, and Manny Ramirez from Boston to Los Angeles in 2008.

Martinez: 49 games, 23 HRs, 49 RBIs, .291/.363/.736, 1.9 WAR

Beltran: 90 games, 23 HRs, 53 RBIs, .258/.368/.559, 4.5 WAR

Ramirez: 53 games, 17 HRs, 53 RBIs, .396/.489/.743, 3.5 WAR

When looking at simple counting statistics and averages, Martinez fairs very well – if not impresses the most – when compared to both Beltran and Ramirez. When digging into a more holistic statistic such as WAR though, Martinez still has a ways to go to join the company of both men when it comes to their supercharged half seasons.

Part of this is due to his defense and base running. When Beltran joined Houston in ’04 he was a phenomenal defender and base stealer, accumulating a full 1.0 dWar in his 90 games while also stealing 28 bags. Ramirez and Martinez’ calling cards are clearly their bats so Beltran reigning supreme in the WAR category shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. ’04 Beltran was simply just a more complete player than ’17 Martinez and ’08 Ramirez.

When comparing Martinez to Ramirez the biggest eye opener is the near .400 average Ramirez posted in his 53 games. While Martinez’ average falls over 100 points below Manny’s, Martinez’ homers have already surpassed Ramirez’ with his RBIs close behind. With that said, Martinez still falls well short of Ramirez in another more holistic offensive statistic; OPS+. At this point with the DBacks Martinez has posted an absurdly good 163 OPS+, already matching the same number he had in 57 games with the Tigers earlier in the season. Ramirez in ’08 on the other hand? Try 221. *jaw drops*

It’s probably unfair for me to be nitpicking J.D.’s numbers against those of two men worthy of Cooperstown, but this exercise helps put some perspective on Martinez’ run with Arizona thus far. Has he been ridiculously good and valuable to his 85-62 Diamondbacks? Yes. But has he been historically good and valuable? Well, that’s still up for debate as this season winds down.

By the end of the season – assuming no injuries or days off – Martinez will have played 64 games with Diamondbacks. By then I would say it’s safe to assume his line will still be near where it is currently, with his Dbacks HR number between 27-30, and his RBI total approaching 60.

Could his WAR be a few ticks higher by seasons end? Yes, and I’d say that’s more likely than not. However, Martinez still lacks the defense, base running ability, and hitting know-how to launch him even remotely close to Beltran and Ramirez’ sphere.

While Martinez has been a tremendous offensive force for Arizona, and it’s shown over the course of his run with the team as they’ve gone 28-21 since his arrival, he has not had in my eyes a historical impact on his team as some previous deadline bats in Beltran and Ramirez have. There’s no doubt Martinez has exceeded all expectations since he became a Diamondback. What a trade by first-time General Manager Mike Hazen to make a statement at his first trade deadline. With Martinez, Dbacks manager Torey Lovullo has one of the deepest hearts of an order opponents will see in the playoffs at his disposal with Paul Goldschmidt, J.D., and the lesser known 3B Jake Lamb.

As Arizona streaks for that top NL Wild Card spot, Martinez will surely be at the heart of their offense for the next few weeks and into October. His impact has been undeniable. But has his impact been historical? As of now I say no. However, with 15+ games left for Martinez in a Dbacks uniform and October beckoning, never say never.

All statistics provided by Baseball Reference.


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