Thursday, February 8, 2024

Free Agent Slugger Could Be Killer in Cubs Lineup

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Let’s indulge in more speculative thoughts about the Chicago Cubs. For a second, let’s ignore if J.D. Martinez is a fit with this current Cubs roster or not. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi discussed a recent report that said the New York Mets have had conversations with Martinez’s camp, but Morosi insisted that you should keep an eye on the Cubs when it comes to the DH’s free agent market.

Martinez, 36, was outstanding with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2023, ending the season with 33 home runs in 113 games, while putting up a slash line of .271/.321/.572, in 479 plate appearances.

Via MLB Network.

“I still look at the number of free agents out there, I would be stunned if the Cubs don’t get one of them. And obviously Bellinger, Matt Chapman, J.D. Martinez all Scott Boras clients, so Scott has certainly an idea of the big picture of where all the interest is coming from.”

Morosi then continued talking about the benefits of the Mets signing Martinez, giving New York another solid bat to remain competitive through the first half of the season. At the end, though, Morosi once again brought up the Cubs and was really pushing the idea that they could get in the mix for Martinez.

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“I would keep the Cubs in that conversation. The Cubs have got to add a significant bat in the next two weeks.”

Here’s the clip for the entire context.

Although Martinez hasn’t been the beast he once was during the 2010s, when he was putting up monster numbers from 2014-19, with the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox, the right-handed hitter has still been productive. His only bad year since 2013 was in the shortened 2020 season, but how can you really take anything away from a 54-game sample size?

Here’s what Martinez has done in his last three seasons.
2021: 148 G, 634 PA, 28 HR, 286/.349/.518, 126 wRC+
2022: 139 G, 596 PA, 16 HR, 274/.341/.448, 119 wRC+
2023: 113 G, 479 PA, 33 HR, .271/.321/.572, 135 wRC+

Love that bat. Want that bat. Need that bat. Martinez could be a killer in the middle of the Cubs lineup.

I will point out that Martinez is getting up there in age and maybe 2023 showed signs that he’s starting to break down a little. Martinez was placed on the injured list twice while on the Dodgers, first in April with lower back tightness and then in August with groin tightness. Neither injury forced Martinez to miss extended time, though, as he returned from each IL stint in less than 3 weeks.

Contract wise, we’re probably thinking one guaranteed year at a minimum of $15 million+ with an option for the 2025 season. It’s not going to be a back-breaking deal for the Cubs or any other team.

But now, let’s talk about the fit and does this even make sense for the Cubs?

For starters, Martinez would be coming in as a DH only. He used to be an outfielder, but that doesn’t really matter when it comes to this Cubs roster. Maybe your mind goes to, he could play first base when Michael Busch sits against lefties. DH/1B kinda go hand in hand, but looking at Martinez’s entire pro career, he has logged a grand total of 18 innings at first base, which came in 2009, a game each at Rookie Ball and Low-A Ball. So, I don’t think Martinez is going to be scooping up grounders at first any time soon.

The Cubs have Christopher Morel, who at this point doesn’t have a position in the field and is lined up to get every-day at-bats as the team’s DH. While I’d be pleased with Martinez, I also wouldn’t want the Cubs to once again limit Morel’s playing time. We need to see a full season’s worth of Morel plate appearances because his ceiling can be really high.

Also, the Cubs are pretty right-handed at the moment, so Martinez doesn’t give you that left-handed bat the team has said it’s looking to acquire. That being said, Martinez has still been good against right-handed pitching recently, posting an .826 OPS against them the past three years combined and is coming off an .880 OPS vs. righties in 2023.

I was thinking, though, Morosi has now brought up the Cubs as a potential landing spot for a pair of veteran right-handed DHs. Before Justin Turner signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, Morosi mentioned the Cubs as one of the teams in the mix for Turner’s services. Turner, like Martinez, would have presented the Cubs with an odd fit because he’s also mainly a DH now. Then, Morosi talks about Martinez and the Cubs being a possible match. Maybe Morosi’s reasoning is based more on the Cubs’ need of adding another bat rather than actual interest?

Yet, in a perfect world, what if the Cubs do actually plan on giving Morel a real chance to start at third base in 2024? If that is the case, then you wouldn’t worry about another guy taking Morel’s at-bats away at DH because he’ll be in the lineup starting at third. The main issue with this line of thinking is that the Cubs have not given any indication that Morel will indeed be the first choice at third base during the offseason.

So yeah, maybe the fit doesn’t work. But it’s not like the Cubs wouldn’t be able to make it work with Martinez and Morel. Craig Counsell could figure out what guys need a day off and Morel could fill in all over the field, while Martinez sticks at DH.

Of course, there’s also the very likely scenario that Morosi, through Scott Boras, is throwing out the Cubs as a potential landing spot for Martinez to drive up the price in negotiations with other teams.

In the meantime, for more Cubs talk, check out this week’s Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast that features reaction to ESPN’s Jeff Passan saying he thinks the Cubs will sign one of the four main Scott Boras free agents.

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Hehateme30
Hehateme30
Feb 8, 2024 8:37 pm

I’m totally down with this idea. Also give Martinez the first baseman glove in spring training and have them start taking grounders so he doesn’t have to be a DH only.

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