Detroit Tigers: Upton is In, So Pay J.D. Martinez
Yesterday was an exciting day for the Detroit Tigers. Justin Upton joined the team for a reported $132 million for six years. This lucrative contract has an opt-out clause after two years. Upton will make $22 million per year. Only two other position players received larger contracts, with Jason Heyward‘s being the biggest.
But, what does all of this mean for J.D. Martinez?
The latest news about Martinez has not changed. The All-Star right fielder asked the Tigers for $8 million per year. The Tigers returned with $6 million. Now that Mike Ilitch has given the large contract to Upton, how difficult is it for the team to meet Martinez at his request for $8 million? It is obvious that Mike Ilitch has pockets deep enough to sign a 28-year-old outfielder from the National League.
Upton and Martinez are four days apart in age, both will turn 29 in August. Along with the similar ages, the two players are close in size, with Martinez measuring 6’3 and 220 and Upton 6’2 and 205. Upton began his Major League career in 2007 with the Arizona D-Backs, Martinez’s career began in 2011 with the Houston Astros. Four years of experience in the Major Leagues does make a difference, but Martinez has shown the team and its leaders what he can do. And, in the past two season with the Tigers, Martinez’s numbers are more impressive than Upton’s.
Looking at 2014, Martinez was more of a force at the plate than Upton. Martinez hit .315/.358/.912 in 123 games. He hit 23 home runs and 76 RBIS. He stole 6 bases. In the same year, Upton hit .270/.342/.833 with 29 home runs and 102 RBIS in 154 games. Upton stole 8 bases. Upton received a Silver Slugger and finished 17th in the NL MVP race that year.
In 2015, both men had impressive numbers. Both had All-Star years. Upton hit .251/.336/.790 with 26 home runs, 81 RBIs, and 66 walks. He played in 150 games. Martinez hit .282/.344/.879 with 38 home runs, 102 RBIs, and 53 walks. In 2015, Martinez was named the Tiger of the Year, earned a Silver Slugger, and finished 15th in the AL MVP vote.
These numbers prove that J.D. Martinez is just as good, if not a better player than Justin Upton and deserves to be given a contract that is worthy of his past performance and predicted performance. Upton has only hit .300 once in his career and he has only hit above Martinez’s .282 twice.
Even the offensive WAR numbers show the quality of Martinez’ bat. In his two years with the Tigers, his oWAR is 8.8. Upton’s in the previous two years was 6.9. Both have -0.7 in their past two years in the outfield. In 2014, Upton led the NL with errors committed at left field and he finished third in errors in 2015. He led the league for three years in errors committed at right field. In 2014, Martinez made the third most errors in left field. The four extra years in the majors have not made Upton a better outfielder than Martinez.
Next: Details on the Justin Upton Signing
The signing of Justin Upton was a good move by the front office in Detroit, but they should now show J.D. Martinez the same respect they gave to their newest outfielder. Martinez makes the Tigers a better team. Mr. Ilitch, Mike Avila, and Brad Ausmus should give Martinez what he has earned: a contract that keeps him hitting out of the park in Detroit.