JD Martinez’s season didn’t begin until May 12. But if you look at his home run total, you’d never even guess it.
Appearing in just a small cluster of six games due to an injury prior to the regular season, Martinez already collected eight hits from 16 at bats, along with five homers and eight RBI’s.
This is not the first time Martinez missed extended time in a Tigers’ uniform. In 2016, he had the displeasure of sitting out from June 17 to Aug. 2. His very first plate appearance after returning on Aug. 3 was a home run. He finished the month of August batting .404.
If there is one thing we know about Martinez, it’s that he hates sitting out. He has an excellent persona and is a fan favorite in Detroit.
However, Martinez’s spark does beg an interesting question. Will he remain in Detroit for next season?
Martinez will likely demand a long-term mega deal at the end of this season. He signed a two-year $18.5 million deal a couple years ago to avoid arbitration. If the Tigers want to invest in Martinez for a long-term, it’s now or never.
While it has yet to be determined how much money Martinez will look for, one thing is certain. Justin Upton set the standard in Detroit at left field by signing a six-year deal earning $22 million annually. Martinez is undoubtedly more valuable than Upton and will likely look to top his contract.
The Tigers already have the fourth-highest payroll in the MLB. Does Tigers GM Al Avila want to the roll the dice and sign Martinez to a mega deal? The next two months will provide the answer.
By the trade deadline on July 31, the Tigers will be in one of two categories—contenders for the playoffs or non-contenders.
If Detroit’s bats ever decide to wake up, the Tigers could make a run to win the AL Central, which is looking to be the weakest division in all of baseball. The Tigers are currently tied with defending AL Pennant champs Cleveland Indians at 20-19 at one game out of first. Even more surprising is that the Minnesota Twins, the former laughing stock of the Central, are somehow the frontrunners of the division.
The Central is up for grabs, so if the Tigers make a run to the top by the end of July, Martinez may remain in Detroit for the rest of the year. After that, chances are that Avila will let Martinez go for financial reasons.
If the Tigers are non-contenders by the deadline, it is essential that Avila trades him. Martinez is one of the top power hitters in the nation. He has just about every positive aspect you could hope for both on and off the field. By trading Martinez, Detroit would be able to stock up on younger players just as they did by trading David Price and Yoenis Cespedes two years ago.
Is there any world in which Martinez stays in Detroit for 2018? Sadly for Tigers’ fans, it is unlikely. Detroit needs to change their strategy. They need to go younger, cheaper and faster.
Detroit hardly has the means to sign another player to a monster deal. Even if they did, it would be pointless unless Detroit could contend for a World Series. In fact, signing Martinez long-term only makes sense if Detroit is on the verge of winning a World Series in the upcoming years. But over the past few seasons, Detroit has shown that they are far from the powerhouse they were from 2011-2013.
There are a few ways Ilitch and Avila can go about handling JD Martinez. He is an exciting player that fans and coaches alike want to see stay in Detroit. However, it is appearing more and more likely that Detroit’s front office will reluctantly agree that Martinez’s time on Detroit is nearing an end.