Pretty much every good player on the Tigers has been thrown out as a potential trade candidate this month, but Detroit made its first official move of the season Tuesday night, sending J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for three prospects.
Of all the Tigers, Martinez was by far the most likely to leave, and the only drama involved had to do with which team was going to get him. In the last season of a two-year contract, Martinez is currently hitting .305 with 16 home runs in 57 games, after missing the month of April with a foot injury. His OPS is 1.018, and he’s been the best offensive player on the Tigers in 2017.
Naturally, J.D. is a great pick-up for Arizona. He’ll most likely hit right behind and provide protection for Paul Goldschmidt, who’s currently tied for the league lead in intentional walks. Sitting 10.5 games back of the Dodgers, the Snakes may already be out of the division chase, but they still hold a solid grip on a wild card spot despite a recent cold streak. Martinez’s standard position is right field, where the D-Backs already play the very capable David Peralta, but left field has been less consistent, so it shouldn’t be too hard to slot him in.
It will take a while, though, to rate this move from the Tigers’ perspective. The best guy they got from the Diamondbacks is Dawel Lugo, who’s still only in Double-A. The general feeling around Detroit is that GM Al Avila could have done better, but Martinez is still only a rental about to hit 30, and the going rate for those types isn’t lucrative. Detroit, as the third-worst team in the American League this year, had little choice but to abandon Martinez and start betting on the future.
That said, J.D. was a joy to watch in his three-and-a-half years with the Tigers. He was the best kind of surprise, suddenly transforming from a bad player in Houston to a top guy for Detroit. His Tiger highlight reel includes a multitude of thrilling home runs, and he’s played his way into fans’ hearts even as the team has struggled of late. The love was returned, it seems, as Martinez’s reaction to leaving the city where his career was made reads as especially heartfelt:
Martinez will get a shot at playoff baseball this season. Michael Fulmer, Alex Avila, and Justin Verlander have a little under two weeks to find out whether they will, too.