As the Arizona Diamondbacks continue their quest to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011, it’s hard to ignore the fact that J.D. Martinez has been unbelievably brilliant for only being on the team for two months. But the question looms, do the Diamondbacks bring him back next season or let him walk in free agency?
The case for retention
A lot of Diamondbacks fans think it’s a no-brainer to bring him back next season, but would the front office be wrong for not re-signing him? After all, Martinez made history on September 4 by becoming the 18th player in MLB history to hit 4 home runs in one game. He’s also had three multi-home run games since coming to Arizona and is third on the team in long balls behind Paul Goldschmidt (35) and Jake Lamb (27), with 24 just with the Diamondbacks. That brings his season total to 40 once the 16 he had with the Detroit Tigers are added.
Arizona definitely won the lottery in the July 19 trade with the Tigers that only cost them three minor league players. But if you think about it, the Diamondbacks have a lot of talent on the 40-man roster and in the farm system, meaning the team might be willing to let Martinez go after this season wraps.
Remember, the Diamondbacks have Yasmany Tomas, who put up a huge 2016 campaign for a club that underachieved all season. He has potential to be great but a groin injury has sidelined him since June 2, potentially jeopardizing his spot in the lineup. Martinez has made it difficult for GM Mike Hazen and the rest of the front office to make a plan about Martinez after this year, which is why either decision they make won’t be wrong.
A crowded outfield
Martinez, at 30 years old, is in the prime of his career. This means the Diamondbacks, if they were to bring him back, should get at least two more good years out of him. Martinez has hinted he would love to stay in Arizona too and because of his resume over the last few years, the Diamondbacks need to consider every option on the table. If they decide to keep Martinez, that means an outfielder has to leave.
A.J. Pollock has been plagued by injury since his career year in 2015 but when he’s healthy, he has proven he can do anything both at the plate and in the field. That’s why the Diamondbacks would prefer to keep Pollock around for as long as possible.
The same goes for David Peralta who, when healthy, can do anything on defense and offense. He too was injury plagued in 2016 after a career year in 2015 but the 30-year-old is in his prime, meaning he should be good for a few more seasons. Peralta has also handled himself well this year against left-handed pitching at a .248 clip in 75 games against southpaws in 2017.
That leaves Yasmany Tomas, who some say is unnecessary baggage for a National League team. Tomas would probably serve better as a designated hitter in the American League but he can cover ground in the outfield like anyone else. He has a career .973 fielding percentage as an outfielder, only committing ten errors in his three seasons. He set career highs with 31 home runs and 83 RBI in 2016, but this year was a bust due to his season-ending groin injury suffered in a rehab assignment last month.
The odd man out
So if the Diamondbacks keep Martinez, whose the odd man out of the equation?
The likely answer is Yasmany Tomas, but his contract is a concern. He only has $10 million remaining in guaranteed money but has two player options for 2019 and 2020 worth a combined $32.5 million. Barring a major resurgence next year, be it with Arizona or another team, he’ll likely exercise those options rather than risk losing money in free agency.
If the Diamondbacks can move Tomas and his contract, they’re more than likely indicating Martinez is going to stay and be the primary right fielder in 2018. If they can’t, Martinez won’t be in the desert because there’s no way the club lets go of Pollock or Peralta.
As much as Diamondbacks fans would like to see Martinez stay and Tomas go, the only way that’ll happen is if there’s a team, preferably from the American League, who is willing to take over Tomas’s contract next season. Hazen made a point last winter that he and his staff thought Tomas’s 2016 season was legit so they may not be inclined to give him away just yet, but the game of baseball is a strange game sometimes, including the business aspect.
The gamble of bringing Martinez back and letting Tomas go is just as big of a gamble the other way around too and the only way we’ll know who made the right call is if someone plays their hand first.
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