Yesterday the Athletic’s Jim Bowden published one of his trademark articles (subscription required) wherein he ranks a thing, and in this case that thing is the quality of all 30 MLB teams’ opening day lineups. Somewhat surprisingly, the Mets are slotted in at 14th behind the likes of the Cubs, Reds, and Padres even with the acquisition of J.D. Martinez considered for the rankings. These lists should generally be taken as the silly things they are, particularly when folks like Bowden lean almost exclusively on subjective reasoning to make their case. Still, his lukewarm note of the addition of Martinez is of interest:

J.D. Martinez is a great pickup who will provide protection for Alonso in the lineup plus his leadership and batting cage presence will help the development of the Mets’ young players. “

It’s safe to state that most Mets fans are under no illusion that the 36-year-old Martinez is some kind of magic elixir that will cure all of what ails the team on the offensive side of the ball, but there should be little doubt that he’s likely to be a substantial improvement over what the team was planning on trotting out of the DH spot this season.


FanGraph’s positional power rankings for designated hitter, also a list but one that leverages projected fWAR to rank the teams, places the Mets at 24th in the majors. The team’s ranking is also surprising here in that Martinez is projected to accumulate just 0.7 fWAR per ZiPS. That’d be his lowest mark since the all-around non-standard 2020 season, but before that you’d have to go all the way back to his pre-breakout days with Houston to find anything lower. More importantly, and as a DH that likely won’t see much time with the glove, his projected ZiPS wRC+ for 2024 is 106. Once again (excluding 2020), you have to go way back to his Houston days to find a wRC+ that low.

So what’s driving such a pessimistic projection? Ben Clemens at FanGraph’s does a great job of breaking down what appear to be the underlying reasons for a projection that certainly isn’t what the Mets hope they’ll get out of Martinez even on a sweetheart deal. In short, he struck out more while walking less than his career norms in 2023, and the projections believe that trend will continue with far fewer home runs and much less power than he had last season (with a sprinkling of some age-related regression and worse luck). For context, Mark Vientos is projected for a wRC+ of 99.

While even Ben doesn’t think the numbers will wind up quite that bad, there’s certainly reason enough to think 2023 might have been his last big hurrah. Based on his contract with the Mets and the fact that he remained on the market so long, it appears teams were wary of a drop-off as well. Even so, Martinez brings the prospect of something the Mets could use more of: raw power and consistently hard contact (when he makes contact). In 2023, and per Statcast, Martinez was top ten in hard hit percentage, average exit velocity, and barrels per plate appearance. The 2023 Mets as a team were relatively middling in slugging and hard hit rate, and they didn’t tend to barrel up as much as the top teams did. The 2023 version of Martinez bolsters these attributes, potentially adding another dangerous hitter to a lineup short on sluggers an opposing pitcher would be hesitant to throw to beyond Pete Alonso, maybe Francisco Lindor, and if you squint a little possibly Francisco Alvarez.

While the Mets’ biggest concerns heading into the season were without question related to their starting pitching, it doesn’t hurt to lengthen the lineup with a proven commodity on a great, short-term deal. The downside boils down to a worst-case scenario where Martinez truly falls off a cliff and players like Vientos get more plate appearances than would be ideal for a team with an outside shot at the postseason. That would put the Mets exactly where they were a week ago with zero impact beyond 2024. The best-case scenario is that the team gets the same monster production Martinez provided the Dodgers in 2023 at a remarkably discounted rate.

It’s a low-risk gamble a team like the Mets should be making at this point in their retooling process as they balance their efforts to rebuild an entire organizational philosophy with remaining at least nominally competitive.

6 comments on “J.D. Martinez is a worthwhile boom or bust candidate

  • Steve_S.

    Yeah, but he was at 98% for Hard-hit and Barrel %! And even his Chase % (28%) was a bit below the MLB average. I can see some age-related regression, but he’s 36. For one year, I’ll take him!

  • ChrisF

    Easy choice to sign JDMart. I don’t think the predictions are worth a hill of beans so I don’t regard them at all. He will be part of a rising tide lifts all boats. The guy unlikely has failed to remember how to hit. In any case it’s hard to imagine him being worse than any DH we have ever had or could presently trot out there. But 36 is 36 and he’s not on the slope going up that’s for sure. I think it’s a good bet pitchers will be more aware of JDM than say Vientos. Let’s hope he’s a good percentage of what he was last year.

  • Metsense

    Martinez is a worthwhile signing. 2023 he had a 134 OPS+. Even if he slips to his 2022 117 OPS+ or his projected 106 OPS+ it would be a worthwhile signing, Your last paragraph sums it up completely.

  • NYM6986

    Great signing that would have been unnecessary if Vientos and Stewart were stinging the ball this spring. Yes Vientos has 5 HR but Martinez provides much more and he will rub off on the youngsters. One year deals are the pathway to 2025. Makes it easier to snag a wildcard spot with another bonafide star in the lineup. Let’s see how Vientos hot in the first 7-8 games before the bring Martinez back up.

    • Metstabolism

      We can stop at great signing and leave it at that. The chances of Stewart and Vientos stinging the ball this spring – all spring was a wishful thought, not a real likelihood. The Mets have been kicking the tires on DHs all off season, waiting for one in the price range they wanted, with JDM among the best of them. His price dropped into their range an they signed him.

  • Mike W

    Martinez is not getting any respect. Last year he hit 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs in 113 games. How about if he fell off and hit 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs in 150 games? Would we be happy? Heck yeah!

    Look at Paul Molitor. Some of his best years were after age 35.

    He is a good veteran presence in the lineup. Vientos will still get at bats. He just won’t be under the pressure to perform.

    The good news is, with Stearns’ strategy, if Martinez has a bad year, his contract is up. If he has a good year, I bet he would be excited to be on the Mets for another season after we sign Juan Soto and Max Fried and have Acuna, Gilbert, Jett Williams and Christian Scott join the team.

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