Rays Trade Target: Jose and Carlos Martinez
By Patrick Davenport
The Tampa Bay Rays search for a starting pitcher and a ‘feared’ right handed bat continues. But with Noah Syndergaard and Paul Goldschmidt off the table, who should the front office target?
After the St Loius Cardinals acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, the Rays lost another ‘feared’ right handed bat, an acquisition Tampa’s front office are reportedly seeking.
With Josh Donaldson heading to Atlanta too, options are getting thinner and thinner. The obvious choice for a DH would be signing free agent slugger Nelson Cruz, but it would be a far better approach to try and add a slugger via trade.
The Rays are rich in prospects – having a one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, and have log jams at many positions, especially the middle infield, and would not feel the sting if they were to part with a few for a controllable arm or bat.
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With that in mind, I propose a trade that would kill both those birds in one stone. A trade with the St. Louis Cardinals that would send 1B/OF Jose Martinez and RHP Carlos Martinez to Tampa.
Starting with Jose, he is a controllable bat that has hit above .300 in both his first two full seasons in the bigs, while hitting 14 and 17 home runs in 2017/18. He is a bat with obvious potential, and has plenty of team control left before free agency looms, giving the Rays even more team-friendly options without massively increasing their payroll.
The crazy thing to me is last year when he hit .305 with 17HRs, I don’t think we’ve even seen him at his best. J-Mart has the potential to be an extremely dangerous middle of the order hitter with plenty of team control, so it checks off all of the Rays’ boxes.
Why would the Cards want to trade that away? That would be his fielding. According to Baseball Prospectus, Martinez had a pretty appalling -2.1 dWAR in 2018 while playing a mix of first base and the outfield. While his bat is way above average, he actually hurts the team while playing the field, and the Cards have no DH option in the NL.
Couple that with their recent trade for Goldschmidt, Martinez will struggle to find a place on the field. He’d struggle to find an outfield spot too, as the Cardinals already had a bit of a full house there in 2018, which motivated them to trade Tommy Pham to Tampa in July. Essentially, while Jose is a good player, he is no longer a fit with the organization, but could fit like a glove with the Rays.
Moving on to Carlos, I couldn’t think of a better fit for Tampa’s pitching implementation than him. C-Mart is no where near as cheap as Jose, as he is currently signed through 2021 for around $11.5M a year. However, this shouldn’t be a factor considering the Rays’ payroll flexibility coming into 2019 and beyond.
Martinez has evolved into a pitcher that would find himself as a 2/3 starter in almost any organization, and would be the perfect follow up to Blake Snell in the rotation. He has consistently posted an ERA in the low threes since 2015 and has a healthy strike-out to walk ratio. He even had over 200 punch-outs in 2017. If healthy, he can also put up to 200 innings.
What jumps out the most to me about Carlos Martinez isn’t his above average numbers, but how he was used by the Cards last year. He appeared in 33 games last year, but only 13 of them were starts. Martinez was used everywhere in 2018, from starter to long relief to even closer, picking up 5 saves and 3 holds last year. This is a perfect fit for the Rays.
With a log jam in the rotation Carlos Martinez suddenly has found himself searching for a concrete role in St. Louis. This could work to the Rays favor. Some believe that they are willing and possibly even looking to move the righty even though his trade value has decreased.
If he arrives in Tampa, it is likely they would give him the concrete role as a starter again behind Blake Snell.
To get these two players, it wouldn’t come cheap. While I think Jose may come at a cheaper price than what he would have two weeks ago, he will still likely require a major league left handed bat who is versatile. Carlos is coming off a year in which he was moved to the pen and thus his value has decreased.
What would it take to get both, it is unclear due to the mystery surrounding the Cards’ willingness to deal Carlos Martinez. Maybe the Rays would send Yonny Chirinos or Ryan Yarborough back to St. Louis, giving the Cards an option in the rotation or the pen. They will be looking to get major league pieces back as they look to continue to add just as they recently did with Goldy.
Brandon Lowe is a possibility due to the Rays depth with Robertson and Wendle and Duffy. Maybe they throw in prospects such as Lucius Fox or Joe McCarthy. If they trade a major league arm and left handed bat along with a prospect of two they may be able to get a deal done.
Making a move for both Jose and Carlos Martinez could prove to be very fruitful as the Rays look to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees in 2019 and beyond. Both players come with years of control and at a relatively cheap price.
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