HomeTeamsMetsA Deeper Look at the J.D. Martinez Signing

A Deeper Look at the J.D. Martinez Signing

The seemingly long courtship between the Mets and J. D. Martinez came to a satisfying end on Thursday when the team signed the slugging DH to a 1-year deal. Let’s take a look at what this move could mean for the Amazin’s.

The Mets have never made much of the designated hitter position. From 1997-2019, they only needed the DH during games played in American League parks. The COVID-shortened 2020 season was the first time that all MLB teams utilized the designated hitter for all games, and 2022 was the first time that all teams did it for a full 162-game season. So it’s understandable that the team lacks much of a DH history. Still, there are some National League teams that have known how to make the most of the DH, and the Mets have not been one of them.

Daniel Vogelbach is the only player in Mets history who was predominately a designated hitter, having played 126 games in that role. Next on the list, with 56 games, is Pete Alonso who is obviously better known as the regular first baseman. While he had some good moments, Vogelbach’s brief Mets career will mostly be thought of as a disappointment, as he never really turned out to be the source of power that is usually associated with the DH. Martinez, on the other hand, is coming off a 30+ home run and 100+ RBI season with the LA Dodgers, and even with some small regression he would still be an improvement. Last year, the Mets had 11 different DHs, and they combined for a .700 OPS which was among the bottom 20% in all of baseball. Martinez has had a better than .700 OPS in 11 of his last 12 seasons; the only outlier was in 2020 when it was .680.

Similar to their problems at DH, the Mets were unable to rely on the #5 hitter in the lineup last year. The Mets got a paltry .652 OPS from that spot last year, third worst in all of baseball. The low-level of production from that spot in the batting order mostly came from Vogelbach, Jeff McNeil, Mark Canha, Tommy Pham, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos. None of those names seem like dependable options for that place in the lineup, and the results back up that theory. This wasn’t just an issue for these players, it was also a problem for the player he usually batted before them in the cleanup role, Pete Alonso. While Alonso did finish the season with 46 home runs, he also struck out 151 times, his most since he K’d 183 times in his rookie year, 2019. Many of those strikeouts came from swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, an area pitchers were comfortable pitching him due to the lack of protection he had in this lineup. While not automatic, it’s relatively safe to expect that Alonso will see fewer of those pitches with Martinez batting behind him.

Given that information, you might be wondering what took the Mets so long to sign J. D. Martinez, as he seems like a clear upgrade. While the team’s pursuit of Martinez popped up in the news every few weeks, they were also waiting for his salary demands to come down. As a 36-year-old designated hitter, Martinez and the Mets both knew that it would be unwise for him to miss too much of the season. Eventually, the price came down to a reasonable enough figure and Martinez will now be wearing the orange and blue in 2024.

Still, the money wasn’t the only obstacle to getting this deal done. As people in and around the organization have been saying since late last-July, the Mets were going to use this coming season as an opportunity to evaluate their apparently major league-ready youngsters, and while Martinez is obviously major league-ready, he’s certainly not a youngster. Still, while Mets GM David Stearns reiterated this approach all winter, he never said that all of the young players would be up with the team at once. At one point, the plan involved finding opportunities for Francisco Alvarez, Vientos, Baty, and Rony Mauricio to play regularly. Getting them consistent reps is certainly important. Expecting all four of these near-rookies to be great is not entirely realistic. The Martinez signing allows the Mets to evaluate some of these players without the risk of losing if they turn out to be disappointing. And while Mauricio is out for the season and Alvarez seems like a lineup mainstay (as much as a catcher can be a mainstay), the Mets can now evaluate one of Baty and Vientos and then switch to the other if/when needed.

The Mets promised to be competitive while taking a deeper look at the up-and-coming players in their system this season. It appears that the addition of J.D. Martinez to this roster will increase their ability to make the postseason without interfering with their long-term goals.

Shai Kushner
Shai Kushnerhttps://mlbreport.com/
Shai Kushner, is a seasoned sports journalist and versatile professional deeply embedded in the world of baseball. Since 2014, Shai has been a trusted voice covering the New York Mets for BaseballDigest.com and GothamBaseball.com. Before his journalism career, he served as a video engineer for the Mets Baseball Operations department.


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