Life is good for J.D. Martinez and the Detroit Tigers. The two parties avoided arbitration and settled on a respectable two-year deal. Martinez will reportedly make $18.5 million in 2016 and 2017. This is a significantly better deal than the $8 million that Martinez asked for prior to arbitration filings.
The Tigers originally offered $6 million to Martinez to counter his request. It appeared that the two parties were on their way to arbitration, but like the player-focused team that they are, the Tigers settled. This increase shows that the Tigers are dedicated to keeping Martinez a member of the team. The contract is pending a physical and is reportedly for $6.75 million in 2016 with a $5 million raise to $11.75 million in 2017.
The two-year deal prevents Martinez and the Tigers from needing to have contract discussions in 2017; this is ideal for a guy like Martinez who seems much more interested in improving his game than worrying about his contract. Martinez was the break-out player of 2015 hitting 38 home runs, 102 RBIs, and averaging .282. He also had the second most outfield assists (15) in 2015. He earned his first All-Star invitation, his first Silver Slugger award, and he was named the Tiger of the Year.
Martinez is expected to have a quality season in 2016. CBS Sports ranked him as the fifth-best right-fielder in the league, third best in the AL. Of course, he has strong competition with players like Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jose Bautista. The most interesting ranking is the #4 spot, which CBS Sports gave to George Springer. He plays for the Astros – filling the spot that J.D. could not. They did rank Martinez above Hunter Pence, Yasiel Puig, and Curtis Granderson. Martinez has big shoes to fill, but there is no doubt that he is fully capable. As of publication, MLB Network has yet to announce its Top 1o Right Now Right Fielders, but odds are that Martinez will be on the list.
He has also been recognized by Fangraphs and their Fan projections for 2016. He is currently sitting in the #18 spot on the Fans projection list. The only other Tiger in the top 20 is Miguel Cabrera (no surprise there). Fangraphs is expecting Martinez to hit 34 home runs, 112 RBIs, bat .285, and finish with a 4.7 WAR. In the Fangraphs Steamer projections, he is in the #33 spot with 28 home runs, 92 RBIs, and .273 batting average. After Martinez’s performance in 2015, both projections seem to be a bit on the low side.
The young player is earning respect. He made it very clear that he wants to stay with the Tigers. During the Winter Caravan in January, he was asked about arbitration and his future with the Tigers. He said: “I love this team. I want to be part of this team. I would love to be a Tiger for life.”
This fan would love to see the power-hitting right fielder stay a Tiger for a long, long time. My predictions for J.D. include even more home runs than 2015, another All-Star invite and Silver Slugger award, and a batting average closer to .300. With his pending 2018 free agency (and the unbelievable free-agent class he will be competing with), Martinez will need to deliver big.