The So What? - Martinez and Machado (2/14/18)

By Ryan Fowler

Baseball's rising stars continue to contribute to the sport's new-found power surge. In each of the past five seasons, the number of players 25-and-under who hit 30-or-more home runs has risen; from one in 2013 (Goldschmidt) to three, then five, then six, before 10 youngsters blasted 30+ dingers last season. Kris Bryant (25 years) and Jose Ramirez (24 years) just missed the list with 29 HR.

So, J.D. Martinez is what you would call a late-bloomer. His first 30+ home run campaign came at the ripe old age of 27. He hit 38 taters in 2015, 22 in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign and, as a member of the Tigers and Diamondbacks last season, a career-high 45. Now 30 years old, Martinez is due a new contract and, as a client of Scott Boras, wants to be paid handsomely. He's reportedly got five years, $100+-million on the table, but wants more years and more dough.

The Boston Red Sox – whose 168 homers ranked dead last in the American League in their first season without David Ortiz - appeared to have the inside track, but have faded back when their max offer fell short. So, the Arizona Diamondbacks have returned to the bargaining table, while the Cleveland Indians have also been tossed around as a fit for Martinez's services.

The So What?

Here are Martinez's 2017 Home/Away splitst:

Home Tigers: 11 HR, .336/.430/.748
Away Tigers: 5 HR, .269/.337/.495

Home DBacks: 16, .373/.448/.891
Away DBacks: 13, .238/.288/.607

You have to love that thin desert air, right? So, like most of us, it's obvious Martinez enjoyed sleeping in his own bed rather than at some five-star hotel, but his away splits are worthy of criticism and should be a cause for concern. On a brighter note, his power remained and was spread to all fields, which would help him clear Fenway's short rightfield porch.

With five lefties in their projected lineup and aforementioned lack of power last season, the Red Sox could use Martinez's right-handed power stroke. Since Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. have the outfield on lock, J.D.M. would slide into the DH slot with a platoon of Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez at first.

After 50,000 season simulations, Martinez-to-the-Red Sox breaks down like this:

Red Sox with Martinez: 91.7 wins | 84% playoff chances | 7.2% World Series win
Red Sox without Martinez: 89.2 wins | 75% playoff chances | 4.3% World Series win

So, Martinez is worth ~2.5 wins in Boston, improves their odds of reaching the playoffs by 9% and World Series title probability by nearly 3%.

Depending on Martinez's final price tag, a return to Arizona could cause some accounting issues if the Diamondbacks were interested in re-signing Paul Goldschmidt for, um, life. David Peralta (1.8 WAR) is currently the team's right fielder, which would be fine if not for Martinez's 3.8 WAR in 2017, in which he blasted 29 homers in 62 games for Arizona. In case you were wondering, that HR-rate works out to (an unsustainable?) ~76 homers over the course of 162 games.

After 50,000 season sims …

Diamondbacks with Martinez: 92.3 wins | 84% playoff chances | 5.7% World Series win
Diamondbacks without Martinez: 90.2 wins | 75% playoff chances | 3.6% World Series win

Arizona won 93 games last season, but A.J. Pollock missed 50 games. So, with him, but without Martinez, the engine doesn't sense too much offensive regression and would assume rotation progression behind Zack Greinke.

Two dark horse candidates, on the opposite sides of the “win now” spectrum, are the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.

Yankees with Martinez: 95.9 wins | 94% playoff chances | 14.7% World Series win
Yankees without Martinez: 93.9 wins | 92% playoff chances | 12.5% World Series win

In this OMG do you realize what you've done scenario, one assumes Brett Gardner would be sent packing, Aaron Judge slides from right-to-left, Giancarlo Stanton moves from DH-to-RF and Martinez is the Bombers' designated hitter. Could the trio hit 150 homers? Unlikely, but they would definitely contribute to a projected 1,000-run season in the Bronx. For reference, the Astros scored 896 last season without Judge, Stanton, Martinez, Sanchez, and so on.

Braves with Martinez: 78.4 wins | 13% playoff chances | 0.1% World Series win
Braves without Martinez: 75.7 wins | 6% playoff chances | 0.0% World Series win

If the Braves didn't want to rush the top prospect in all of baseball, 20-year-old Ronald Acuna, Martinez would buy them some time. Acuna began the 2017 minor league season at High-A before promotions to AA-Mississippi and AAA-Gwinnett. He hit .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers and 44 stolen bases across the three stops. Even if Atlanta wanted to keep Acuna, Martinez is an upgrade over Nick Markaikis (0.9 WAR).

The So What – Manny Machado Suitors and Potential Impact

In last week's “So What” feature, we kicked around the idea of Yu Darvish in the Brewers' rotation and ran 50,000 season simulations to see how much he'd improve Milwaukee's playoff chances. The answer turned out to be a lot more than many would assume. Darvish improved the Brew Crew's playoff chances nearly 30% from 28% without him to 57% anchoring the rotation. It was a nice thought, but, as we learned, Yu came to terms with in-division rival Chicago.

So, if the Brewers are to make another splash this offseason and keep pace with the Cubbies, why not make a run at Machado? In this scenario, Milwaukee and Baltimore would swap some player assets to carve out an infield opening. As it stands now for the O's, Buck Showalter has Machado sliding back to his natural position, shortstop, with Tim Beckham (another natural shortstop) taking over at third.
Still only 25 years old (!!), Machado has averaged 35 homers, 96 runs and 92 RBI over the past three seasons. Although his batting average dipped nearly 40 points between 2016 and 2017, that may have been a byproduct of some bad luck. His career .265 BABIP last season was nearly 40 points below his career mark of .301.

After 50,000 season sims featuring Machado in an already loaded Brewers lineup, Milwaukee's expected win total improved by ~3 games. While their playoff odds failed to reach the same mark had they added Darvish, they still improved 15% to 40%. The inability to reach a playoff probability greater than 40% with Machado illustrates the need for Brewers' young starters to improve quickly and how badly they need Jimmy Nelson to return from injury.

The O's need rotation help and the Indians have plenty of arms. However, if Machado was dealt to Cleveland, he'd have to remain at third base as Francisco Lindor has shortstop on lock for the foreseeable future. Jose Ramirez would then move to second base and Jason Kipnis would either come off the bench, be an outfield platoon option or be part of the deal. The addition of Machado's bat and glove at the hot corner is without question an upgrade, but his impact on the Tribe is marginal. He improved their expected win total by two games, playoff probability by 3% to 98% and World Series odds 2.1% to 16%. However, if the Indians and Yankees both miss out on Machado, it'll best serve Cleveland as their World Series odds of 13.9% trump New York's 12.5%.

With Machado, the Bronx Bombers would either allow 22-year-old Miguel Andujar marinate in the minors a little longer or, more likely, he would be shipped in the trade to Baltimore. The added experience, glove and bat in a lineup featuring a potential new-age Murderer's Row, improved the Yankees' World Series odds by 5.4% to 17.9%.