The Texas Rangers offense had its moments in 2019, but obvious vulnerabilities held it back. A potential free agent signing could provide a great boost.
Top-heavy, mostly left-handed, swing-and-miss, young. Those are characteristics of the Texas Rangers’ 2019 offense. It wasn’t a bad bunch. For much of the season, the Rangers had one of the top-producing offenses in the league. They began to sputter only after Joey Gallo, Hunter Pence, and Nomar Mazara fell to injury toward the end of the year.
There is certainly room for improvement, however. And it may take signing just a single player to shift some of those weaknesses to strengths.
J.D. Martinez can opt out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox this offseason. He signed a 5-year/$110 million contract with them prior to the 2018 season. Though, he’s expressed openness to hitting the market once again. In addition, the Red Sox aren’t in much of a position to restructure Martinez’s deal, as they’ve already committed high dollar figures to Chris Sale, David Price, and Xander Bogaerts. They may also give the bank to Mookie Betts before his deal expires after the 2020 season.
If Martinez does opt out, the Texas Rangers should jump on him in free agency. He possesses the exact type of right-handed bat that the club desperately needs. He hits for power and average, and he reaches base at an outstanding clip.
The Rangers got very little power from their right-handed hitters this season. Hunter Pence led righties with 18 home runs; Elvis Andrus had the second most with 12. Collectively, the Texas offense ranked 20th in MLB with a .319 OBP and 17th with a .248 batting average.
Martinez knocked 36 home runs in 2019, following a 2018 season in which he hit 43. His .304 batting average ranked 18th in MLB and his .383 OBP tied for 15th.
He is a pure right-handed hitter who takes a “right center” approach at the plate, even with the enticing Green Monster close by at Fenway Park. The Rangers will enter a new ballpark in 2020, so there’s no way of knowing yet how it will influence hitters. Though, I don’t think it matters where Martinez plays. He can launch the ball anywhere. He hit 38 homers in 2015 with the Detroit Tigers. Comerica Park, the Tigers’ home, is as hard on right-handed hitters as any park in baseball.
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Texas would slot J.D. Martinez either third, fourth, or fifth in the batting order. Gallo, Mazara, and Calhoun are worthy of middle of the order spots. However, it would be ideal from a matchup standpoint to break them up with a right-handed bat. Hunter Pence was that right-handed bat in 2019. Martinez would essentially be taking Pence’s spot.
As for defense, Martinez would primarily play first base and DH. The Rangers already have a few players well-suited for DH, but they could be willing to vacate first base for a premier slugger like Martinez. He would be a step back from Ronald Guzman with the glove, though his bat would be a major upgrade.
It’s important to consider the intangibles, too. Martinez is known to be a great teammate, but also a student of the game. He buys into the metrics, and he prepares for an at-bat as well as any hitter in baseball. He helps his teammates prepare for at-bats as well. That kind of intuitiveness and selflessness would bode well for the overwhelming youth on the Texas Rangers.
If opting out, Martinez will want a lot of money. He’s already making $22 million annually, so Texas will likely have to up that. He’ll probably also want something along the lines of a five-year contract.
Time will tell if he’s a part of the Rangers’ offseason plans. Regardless, I believe he’d be the ideal fit for their offense. The 32-year-old Martinez is one of the top hitters in Major League Baseball. I’d say he’s the kind of player a team should fight hard for.