What Can JD Martinez Provide for the Los Angeles Dodgers?

The Red Sox’s lineup in 2018 was fearsome, to say the least. That season, the Red Sox trotted out a lineup that featured the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez. JD Martinez, in particular, played a vital role for the Red Sox that year. After five seasons in Boston, Martinez now has a new home. The former Red Sox will be reunited with Mookie Betts in Los Angeles, as the 35-year-old agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers. It’s a short-term deal that has a chance to pay off in a big way for the reigning NL West champions.

Related: Astros Bring Back Michael Brantley to Solidify Lineup

A Look at Martinez

A right-handed power hitter, JD Martinez has been one of the game’s elite sluggers since a breakout season in 2014. With the Tigers, Martinez cracked 23 home runs and hit .315/.357/.553 that season. Since that campaign, Martinez produced four 30+ home run campaigns, including 45 in 2017. After a mid-season trade to Arizona, Martinez launched 29 home runs over 62 games with the Diamondbacks. That stretch earned Martinez a five-year contract worth over $100 million with the Red Sox.

Martinez’s first season with Boston was remarkable: the slugger hit 43 home runs, drove in 130 runs, and led all MLB players in total bases (358). The Florida native played a large role in Boston’s World Series title run in 2018, as Martinez clubbed five extra base hits and drove in 14 runs during that postseason. Martinez continued to produce for the Sox over the next three seasons, but the 35-year-old’s numbers dropped off in 2022.

A year after Martinez hit .286/.349/.518 and produced 28 home runs, the former Red Sox hit just 16 in 2022. The drop is a bit alarming for a hitter of Martinez’s ilk, but part of that can be attributed to an increase of getting on top of baseballs. Both Martinez’s GB% and Topped% were up from a year prior. However, the 35-year-old still displayed good pop in 2022. Martinez cracked 60 extra base hits last season, a total that put him in the top 35 in all of baseball.

It’s clear what Martinez is at this point of his career: a DH-only bat that can still provide plenty of value, particularly against lefties. The former Red Sox hit .319/.401/.597 against left-handed pitchers in 2022, an asset that should be welcome in Los Angeles

What it Means

Los Angeles’ free agency strategy this winter has been relatively simple: grab veterans on short-term deals. Over the past few weeks, the Dodgers picked up right-handed pitchers Shelby Miller and Noah Syndergaard. Now, LA grabs a power-hitting DH that should slot somewhere in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup. And on just a one-year deal, the move comes with little risk.

As of this writing, Spotrac projects the Los Angeles Dodgers to be at around $224 million in projected payroll on Opening Day. The Dodgers didn’t pursue the marquee names in free agency, and LA did lose key contributors Tyler Anderson (Angels), Andrew Heaney (Rangers), and Trea Turner (Phillies) over the past few weeks. All of that may sound out-of-character for the Dodgers, but there is a likely reason. If Los Angeles stays under the luxury tax threshold this season, the Dodgers will have the increasing tax penalty counter re-set. That will set the Dodgers to spend again next winter.

That’s not to say Los Angeles is not focused on winning in 2023. While the losses sustained in free agency will hurt, the Dodgers did make some saavy signings to bolster an already strong unit. Los Angeles’ lineup already had a number of dangerous hitters, and JD Martinez could make it even tougher to navigate.

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