When the Dodgers signed Shohei Ohtani to a record-breaking contract this past weekend, the shockwaves were felt throughout the industry.
The Toronto Blue Jays, regularly referred to as the second-highest bidders for Ohtani, missed out. As did the Cubs, Mariners, Giants and Angels, all of whom had been tabbed as suitors for the two-way superstar.
On an individual level, most players who are strictly designated hitters are suddenly no longer fits on the Dodgers. Right up until the Ohtani news broke, J.D. Martinez, who spent last year in L.A., had been a rumored fit to fill the club’s DH vacancy.
Martinez, 36, spent the 2023 season on the Dodgers and was the club’s primary DH. The 13-year veteran made his sixth All-Star Game in the process and hit 33 home runs with 103 RBI in just 113 games. The slugger recorded a 134 OPS+ as well, suggesting he was 34% above league-average at the plate.
At such an “old” age, Martinez remains a lethal power hitter. His days of playing the outfield are firmly behind him, but his value always has come on offense.
Even if the Dodgers are out on Martinez, there are plenty of teams still needing some pop in their lineups. Let’s check out five of the top-remaining fits to sign Martinez.
Speaking of reunions, how about Martinez returning to the desert where he excelled in 2017?
The Diamondbacks swung a trade for him at the deadline and he became one of the best acquisitions in history. In just 62 games, the then-29-year-old hit 29 home runs with a 170 OPS+. He seemed to be a truly unstoppable force once he was brought to Arizona.
The reigning National League champions could use some pop in their lineup. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is set to depart in free agency and the top-available internal options currently consist of Dominic Fletcher and Pavin Smith. Martinez has already been linked to the Diamondbacks and would be an excellent fit.
To date, the Guardians have traded for reliever Scott Barlow and signed light-hitting catcher Austin Hedges. With a clear need for a power bat, they should be an obvious landing spot for Martinez.
Last season, Cleveland was ranked 23rd in the league with a .225 batting average from their designated hitters. Their DHs also were 22nd in home runs and dead last in wRC+. The need for a bat is clear.
The American League Central remains a division that is wide open. The Guardians could easily swipe the top spot from the Twins with a few additions. Shane Bieber and Josh Naylor are both on the trading block, but the financial flexibility is there for the Guardians to make a move.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were one of the teams reportedly in on Shohei Ohtani and now that he’s signed elsewhere, they need to pivot. Wilmer Flores is the top internal candidate to DH next year, but he is best suited to bounce around the infield as a platoon bat.
While the Giants finished fourth in the NL West last season, there’s reason to believe they’re due for a bounce back. Both their lineup and pitching staff looks to be one or two impact moves away from a turnaround, and there’s no better way to address the lineup then adding Martinez.
The Diamondbacks are fresh off of a World Series appearance and the Dodgers just signed the best baseball player in history. It’s time for the Giants to prove their worth and prove they belong.
Another team facing a ton of inter-division competition, the Mariners need to make their move soon if there’s any hope to upgrade their roster. Seattle had long been a fit for Ohtani, even before he signed with the Angels the first time, but they also came away empty-handed this time around.
Looking at the 2024 projected lineup for the club, things are looking pretty dire. Kicking things off with J.P. Crawford, Julio Rodriguez, Cal Raleigh and Ty France is a good start. However, the fact that Cade Marlowe, Luis Urias, Dominic Canzone, Taylor Trammell and Josh Rojas are following is pretty concerning.
Adding someone like Martinez would be a damn good start. This lineup lacks a fearsome power hitter and a veteran presence. In Martinez, they could get a two-for-one deal.
Toronto Blue Jays
There is perhaps no team more in need of an Ohtani fallback than the Blue Jays. Throughout the entire saga, Toronto was seen as the second-best fit for the Japanese superstar alongside the Dodgers.
Just 24 hours before Ohtani signed in L.A., Blue Jays fans were feeling like they had him in the bag. Thanks to some inaccurate reports from MLB insiders, the hope was there, it was just a matter of the player bringing pen to paper. In a heartbreaking turn of events, the slugger took to his own Instagram to announce that he was signing with the Dodgers and the Blue Jays had been duped.
So now, there’s a significant need for a Plan B and even Plan C. Martinez would be an exceptional fit for the Jays, as would any other power hitter on the market i.e. Bellinger, Soler, Garver, Teoscar Hernandez, etc.
With the departure of Brandon Belt, the team’s DH last year, there’s a clear spot for someone of Martinez’s pedigree. Inserting him into a lineup that already features the likes of Bo Bichette, George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be Toronto’s best response for the Yankees landing Juan Soto.