By: Brian Chapman
Less than eleven months ago, I became the first person in Metro Detroit to jump fully aboard the J.D. Martinez bandwagon when I released a controversial entry on The Ticket's website titled "JD Is the Man And Should Be Paid Accordingly."
In that entry I wrote that Martinez, "is not a flash in the pan. He is becoming a household name across the country and he will make his first All-Star appearance in 2015 (write it down.)"
Though many thought it was ludicrous at the time, I was right.
My main argument from that entry was this: "While he may not have the bat of a healthy Miguel Cabrera or the all-around game of a Mike Trout and likely never will, J.D. Martinez is a budding star in the game and needs to be paid like one. Now. This offseason Martinez will be arbitration eligible for the first time and should get a significant raise from what he is making this year after signing a minor league contract.
Let's say around $2 million in 2015. Why do that, then play the same game to avoid arbitration for 2016 and 2017, when you can lock him up long-term now? I say the Tigers should follow in the footsteps of the Indians with Jason Kipnis and the Angels with Mike Trout by paying off all of his arbitration years and going into the first 2-3 years of free agency by handing Martinez a 5 year, $40 million extension this offseason with a team option to make it worth $56 million over six years."
I also felt like if the Tigers chose not to offer him a contract like that last off-season, he would validate his 2014 season with a monster 2015 and the 5-year, $40 million offer would look laughable a year later.
Well guess what? I was right about that too.
This year J.D. Martinez is putting up these numbers at the plate: .291 BA, 30 HR, 74 RBI (he is top 6 in the AL in the last two categories) through 108 games. Though I wouldn't call him a great defensive outfielder, his accurate arm has him tied for second in the American League with 12 outfield assists. To put it succinctly, JD is the man and should be paid accordingly. (Didn't someone say that last year?)
As for my $40 million proposal from last year. That needs to be trashed because Martinez is worth more now. With two years of arbitration to go before he hits free agency, I propose a 6 year, $86 million extension to take him four years into free agency. The breakdown would go like this: $7 million for 2016, $12 million for 2017, $16 million for 2018, $16 million for 2019, $17 million for 2020 and $18 million for 2021.
This deal would make sense for Martinez because all MLB contracts are fully guaranteed (just like NBA contracts and unlike NFL contracts.) That means Martinez, who is only making $3 million in 2015, would be guaranteed to rake in $86 million over the next six years no matter what.
He couldn't possibly turn down a deal like that. It would make sense for the Tigers because he is the real deal and the longer they wait the higher his average annual value goes. Last year I projected it to be about $8 million per year over five years. Now I project it to be about $14.33 million per year over six years.
How much would he be worth if the Tigers wait until he hits free agency after the 2017 season? Think about this. Martinez is on pace to hit about 44 home runs in 2015. Let's say he hits at least 40 home runs again in 2016 and again in 2017. How much do you think a man with three consecutive 40 home run seasons is worth? $20 million per year? In your dreams. Try $25-30 million per year (especially with inflation.)
Following the 2017 season Martinez will also be 30 years old. That means he'll be in the prime of his career, but too old to get a second monster contract. The time before the 2018 season would be the only chance for him to sign a monster contract in his career. He'd want a contract for at least seven years. If he averaged $28 million per season, the grand total would be a whopping $196 million! $86 million doesn't sound so bad now, does it?
Before I go any further, let me first recognize some of the criticism I have received on Twitter for supporting an immediate contract extension for J.D. Martinez following each of his home runs by tweeting out #PayJD and, of course from authoring that legendary entry last September.
While more and more people support the #PayJD movement every day, I still receive comments like; "2 and a half years of team control left. No hurry" and "Seriously dude, you sound stupid and uniformed. Don't embarrass yourself any further," and "You have no understanding of the economics of baseball" and "why handcuff yourself? Why pay for past production? Why eh why don't you get this?" and "you don't pay if you have team control. Look at signing Verlander early." When I look at all of these comments, all I can do is shake my head.
First of all, whether it's the $40 million deal I proposed last year or the $86 million deal I'm proposing now, that is not a monster deal like Justin Verlander's. He is getting $28 million per season right now and his deal for seven years was worth $180 million. Once again, I'm proposing that Martinez make about half of what Verlander is making per year.
The goal is not to give Martinez a Verlander-like contract. It's actually to prevent him from getting a Verlander-like contract. (#KeepJDFromGettingSuperRich?) … By the way. Since when is $14 million per year a monster deal for the Tigers? This isn't 2003. And (just for fun) if he turns into a two-year-long flash in the pan (which will not be the case), since when is $14 million per year too much to stomach for a team with a big payroll? This isn't 2003.
Second of all, I don't know if the Tigers have the money to sign the best players in the game for the largest sums of money anymore and this will ensure that Martinez can't become too expensive to wear the Olde English D.
I don't want the Tigers to be in a situation a year or two from now like they were with Max Scherzer where they offer Martinez a massive deal only to find out they are $66 million short and all they get in return is a compensatory draft pick. I also don't want the Tigers to realize they don't have the money until it's too late because his price has skyrocketed which would force the team to trade Martinez away for prospects like they did with David Price… Therefore, #PayJD.
While we're on this subject, there are two additional players that I believe should at least be under consideration for a long-term extension before they start warranting monster contracts. Two 25-year-old players who caused a great deal of controversy in the dugout recently: Jose Iglesias and James McCann. Unless we find out that these two simply cannot coexist in the same clubhouse, I would try to sign Iglesias this offseason and at the very least consider it with McCann.
Jose Iglesias just made his first career All Star team last month. He is undoubtedly the best defensive shortstop in baseball and when you add his speed and above .300 BA into the equation, in my view he is the best overall shortstop in baseball.
What would I offer a 25-year-old, one-time All Star who I believe to be the best shortstop in baseball and would become a free agent after the 2018 season? How about 6 years and $60 million? The only problem is that signing Iglesias to a contract before he hits free agency is a pipe dream. That's because his agent is Scott Boras and Scott Boras' clients almost always wait until free agency to sign gargantuan contracts.
James McCann has a great chance to make his first career All Star game in 2016. (Write it down.) Among American League catchers with at least 250 at bats, McCann is first with a .289 batting average and fourth with a .434 slugging percentage. He also leads all American League catchers in caught stealing percentage at an astounding 45% and has allowed just one passed ball all season.
What would I offer a 25-year-old catcher like that who has yet to make an All Star team and would become a free agent after the 2020 season? Considering 2020 is so far in to the future and catchers are so much more likely to get injured and/or switch positions, I probably wouldn't give him a long-term deal. If I did make an offer, I'd go two years into free agency and offer him a 7 years and $30 million contract and see if he'd bite. (It sure beats the $508,000 he's making in 2015.)
Al Avila is new to being the man in charge of running the Detroit Tigers as general manager. If he's smart and the Ilitch family allows it, he'll #PayJD and #PayIggy as soon as possible and #PayMcCann sooner rather than later (if McCann continues to shine) to ensure these stars of the future turn into Tigers bargains of the future.
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