Chicago White Sox: Why J.D. Martinez Makes the Most Sense

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

J.D. Martinez fills the DH hole that the Chicago White Sox have and has the postseason experience to help teach this young core how to contend next year and beyond.

Before the 2019 Chicago White Sox season ended, Rick Hahn addressed specific spots the team is looking to upgrade in the upcoming offseason. He mentioned starting pitching, right field, designated hitter, and potentially a left-handed bat if available.

Although starting pitching and right field along with the bullpen are in desperate need of upgrades, one position has remained an anchor in holding down the offense. The last real designated hitter the White Sox had in the lineup was Mark Kotsay nine years ago. Since then, the DH’s in the lineup had previously only played in the National League and had never been given the DH spot up until joining the club.

Adam Dunn played first base and the outfield for Cincinnati, Arizona, and Washington before DH-ing from 2011 to 2014. Adam LaRoche was primarily a first baseman. He did, however, DH for Boston in 2008, but only for four games. In 2015, the team replaced a player who never DH-ed before with a player who did in only four games seven years prior.

From 2016-2018, the team did not have a definitive DH. Time was split between about seven players including Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson. Last offseason, the team signed Yonder Alonso, perhaps to lure Manny Machado to the South Side. He was signed, though, with hopes to fill that spot that needed fixing. Despite having some experience at DH, Alonso was primarily a first baseman.

Alternating players at DH for the rest of the 2019 season after Alsono was cut in June made it clear DH was the hole that needs to be filled. There are many names on the market that fit nicely. Marcell Ozuna’s name has been associated with the White Sox along with many other teams. Nicholas Castellanos and Yasiel Puig have been talked about in the White Sox community, but those three share the same problem, they do not have a lot of DH experience.

But there is one name that stands out. Three-time all-star and three-time silver slugger J.D. Martinez is expected to opt-out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox. Many people question whether it is worth breaking the bank for a 32-year-old with minor back problems and can no longer play the outfield, but his stats answer those asking.

In 2018, Martinez slashed .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs and 130 runs batted in. He saw a dip in those stats slashing .304/.383/.557 with 36 HR and 105 RBI in 2019, but those numbers are still impressive. Another valued skill Martinez brings to the table is actually off the field. It is well known the type of player he is in the clubhouse. Offering tips and advice to younger players is what is focused on.

In 2017, before the Red Sox had Martinez, the team slashed .258/.329/.407 as a whole. After the addition of Martinez at the DH spot, Boston slashed 268/.339/.453, for an increase in every category. In 2019, Boston saw another spike in those numbers slashing .269/.340/.466.

Martinez’s own stats played a role in the increase in the slashing numbers, but as did his coaching. Since entering the league in 2014, Mookie Betts never hit an average below .290. Then in 2017, he finished at .264. After the addition of Martinez, Betts not only suppressed his career-best in almost every hitting category but he was crowned the American League MVP.

It is also worth mentioning Martinez is bilingual. He can not only help the young English speaking core but the young Spanish speaking core as well. The White Sox are on the lookout for a new hitting coach. Bringing in a World Series champion veteran who has a lot to teach this young core would create a nice dynamic between the new coach, Martinez, and the players.

The market for Martinez is not as vast as some would think. Chuck Garfien brokedown Martinez’s options on the White Sox Talk Podcast and he said the following:

"“No National League teams. No rebuilding teams. Twins, Yankees, A’s, Astros are good at DH. So that seems to leave White Sox, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Rangers…. Rangers might be the safest competition.”"

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With only about two or three teams to our-bid, it is very possible Martinez could be wearing the black pinstripes. His ability to hit for contact and for power, get on base, and teach that ability to others makes him a perfect fit for the South Side.