The MLB Winter Meetings are home to a number of rumors, odd transactions and signings. Quite possibly the most significant and puzzling rumor to develop this week was brought up by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. According to Heyman, the Diamondbacks are contemplating trading away righty Zack Greinke in order to free up money for a reunion with outfielder J.D. Martinez.
While retaining Martinez would help the D’Backs lineup long-term, trading Greinke in order to do so would be foolish.
Greinke is, undoubtedly, the Diamondbacks ace. After a lackluster 2016 season, the first year of his six-year, $206.5 million deal, where he pitched to a 4.37 ERA, the Diamondbacks finally got the production they were looking for from Greinke.
Pitching to a 3.20 ERA and 1.07 WHIP , while recording 215 strikeouts in 202.1 innings pitched, the veteran righty was a key component to Torey Lovullo and the Diamondbacks’ 93-win season. After he endured a bounce-back year and the team made the playoffs, management is now just going to trade its ace and lockup a player in Martinez, who they were already playing well without?
Roughly two weeks before the MLB Trade Deadline, the Diamondbacks swung a trade with the Detroit Tigers for Martinez; as soon as Martinez arrived, he was huge in the middle of their order. In just 62 games, Martinez hit .302 and an astonishing 29 home runs, to go along with 65 runs batted in. For the year, he totaled a career-high in home runs (45) and runs batted in (104).
Over the duration of his career, Martinez has been a power-hitting presence and one of the better all-around hitting outfielders in MLB. A career .285 hitter, Martinez has been able to be a contact bat, while simultaneously providing a power presence. At the same time, there are two important factors to consider in his free agency.
For starters, while his home run streak in 2017 was astonishing, it was only for 65 games. While he has hit for power in the past, Martinez had only finished a season with 30+ home runs once beforehand this season (2015). He has also never been able to play a full season due to injury. Outside of playing 158 games in 2015, Martinez has missed 35+ games in each year of his seven-year career. A recent power surge that came out of nowhere and a player proven to be injury prone is a major risk when it comes to dishing out a hefty long-term deal.
Before the Diamondbacks went out and acquired Martinez, they were already in the Wild Card mix. While his addition certainly didn’t hurt the Diamondbacks, it wasn’t as if they were in dire need to acquire him. In fact, had they not made the move for Martinez, chances are they still would’ve been a Wild Card team.
Greinke has been one of the most dominant and reliable arms of the decade. Now back to pitching like the ace of old, trading him to re-sign Martinez would be bizarre.
Martinez is going to, for sure, pursue a mega-deal on the free agent market; he’s the best the outfield market has to offer. Returning to the Desert would provide Lovullo and the D’Backs with a power presence in the middle of their order for the long run, but it doesn’t appear that Arizona can afford to give Martinez a mega-deal, meaning Greinke’s contract would have to be moved if their sights are set on retaining the outfielder.
Last year, the Diamondbacks had the third best team ERA in baseball (3.66) and trading away the ace of that core would still leave them with a respectable rotation, featuring the likes of Robby Ray, Taijuan Walker, Zach Godley and Patrick Corbin. However, when management inked Greinke, he became identity and just getting rid of him after two years would be a mistake.
Martinez is a great hitter, when he’s healthy, and would be a valuable piece in the middle of any teams’ order, but the Diamondbacks cannot bring him back at the expense of Greinke — they can still make the playoffs without Martinez.