USA Today’s Bob Nightingale wrote the other day that, according to multiple MLB general managers, the Cleveland Guardians are the "perfect fit" for free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez. Since then, both the New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels have apparently emerged as the favorites to land Martinez, who’s coming off another strong season despite turning 36 years old last year.
The report, buried in an article about the Caribbean Series, came as a shock to many in the Guardians fandom orbit, as the team isn’t exactly known for shelling out any cash on free agency, and when they do (Josh Bell, Mike Zunino, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn) it hasn’t exactly panned out for them.
It could just be that other GMs are looking at Cleveland’s current roster, see an obvious power vacuum outside of Josh Naylor and José Ramírez and recognize the unproven outfield talent that the Guardians currently possess. Maybe Nightingale’s report will become the knight in shining armor leading the charge to a legitimate free-agent signing late in what’s been a relatively slow offseason. In his one season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martinez slashed .271/.321/.572 with 33 home runs and 103 RBIs, good enough to earn him a spot in the All-Star Game for the sixth time in his big-league career.
But the Dodgers, who handed out generational contracts to Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto while re-signing Tyler Glasnow to a long-term deal, didn’t really need to re-sign a veteran outfielder. So they let Martinez walk, and while he was initially projected to garner contract offers in the neighborhood of two years and $40 million, Martinez still finds himself without a home less than two weeks away from when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. He’s projected by Baseball Reference to see a clear dip in production, but is still projected to have 22 home runs and 76 RBIs.
If that projection were to hold and Martinez donned a Guardians uniform next year, he’d be the first Cleveland outfielder to surpass the 20 home-run mark since Shin-Soo Choo in 2010. I think if the Guardians can wrestle him down in the market of $10-12 million on a one-year deal, he’d be the perfect addition to this lineup that we’ve all been begging for. His addition doesn’t hurt the long-term development of Cleveland’s outfielders while providing one of the youngest teams in baseball veteran experience that will be vital if the club wants to gun for an outside chance at a playoff spot.