Arizona Diamondbacks: The need to retain J.D. Martinez

The Arizona Diamondbacks need to sign J.D. Martinez in the off-season. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
The Arizona Diamondbacks need to sign J.D. Martinez in the off-season. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

The Arizona Diamondbacks need to re-think their economic structure, and sign J.D. Martinez for 2018 and possibly beyond.

Of player transactions in the upcoming offseason, the most intriguing decision will likely land with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

That would be their desire to retain outfielder J.D. Martinez, who was an important catalyst in the Diamondbacks drive to land in the postseason.

An unrestricted free agent, Martinez will likely gather the attraction of several teams, and clubs with deeper pockets than Ken Kendrick, the Diamondbacks’ general manager partner and the man with the Arizona checkbook.

Whether teams really need outfield help is not the question. Martinez’s lethal bat and ability to seamlessly fit into the Arizona clubhouse make the 30-year-old clearly desirable to the Diamondbacks. As the 2017 season closed, Martinez made it clear he would like to remain in the desert.

At this point, that may be easier said than done.

From a fan’s perspective, the Diamondbacks must keep Martinez in Sedona Red. His ability to drive in runs at the most opportune times clearly energized a local sports population which is transient at best.

The Diamondbacks need Martinez to fill seats at Chase Field.

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Here’s a look at some numbers.

For a team which qualified for postseason play, the Diamondbacks drew 2,134,375 for 2017. During the 2016 season, in which the club went 69-93, the team drew 2,036,216, the lowest in its 19-year history.

Traditionally, attendance remains relatively stagnant with fans coming through the gates at Chase Field. In 2001, when the Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees and captured their only World Series title, they drew 2.740,554, but did draw over 3 million in their first two years of operation (1998, 1999) and again in 2002, the year after winning the World Series.

Since, attendance has relatively languished, but Martinez was able to shake the doldrums. His presence in the lineup and production on the field remain the hallmark of his 2017 contributions. For that reason alone, the Diamondbacks need to bring him back, and make sure Martinez is able to generate enough energy to keep the turnstiles clicking.

While the club has every desire to retain his services, Martinez will likely listen to other voices. To keep the Florida native in their line-up, the Diamondbacks will have to juggle finances, and likely entertain a restructure of their existing economics.

Powered by a new FOX television contract worth an estimated $1.5 billon agreed to in February of 2015, Kendrick was able to go out and acquire pitcher Zack Greinke, but the price paid compromised going back into the free-agent market. Signing Greinke to a six-year deal worth a reported $206 million, that amount of money effectively shut the door on future spending. Plus, Kendrick signed outfielder Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68 million deal, and now is under pressure to renegotiate with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who is grossly underpaid for the value that he provides.

For Kendrick, the man holding the economic reigns, the ideal scenario would be to trade Greinke and have the remaining $138 million on his contract absorbed another team. That’s highly unlikely, and so is the Diamondbacks’ desire to eat the remainder of Tomas’ salary.

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For the 2017 season, Martinez earned $11.750 million, and given his precipitous rise to help the Diamondbacks reach a heightened level, he will likely command a contract in the $20 to $25 million per year range. The way the Diamondbacks have structured their economics, paying Martinez what others are likely to offer is out of their reach.

Somehow Kendrick needs to make the economics work. To continue to energize a marginal fan base and ensure that Martinez’s presence in the lineup continues to protect Goldschmidt and raise the production of those players around him, the signing of Martinez is not only a no-brainer, but a necessity.