Mets Lure 6-Time All-Star Slugger With Unique Contract

New York Mets designated hitter J.D. Martinez.

Getty New York Mets designated hitter J.D. Martinez.

It turns out it’s never too late to add a power hitter.

When asked on March 17 whether his New York Mets might make any significant roster moves before the end of spring training, owner Steve Cohen said, “It’s getting a little late to add.”

However, the Mets reached an agreement on a one-year, $12 million contract with free agent designated hitter J.D. Martinez on March 21, according to The New York Post’s Jon Heyman. The move comes exactly one week before the Mets are scheduled to open the season by hosting the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.

Martinez adds a proven commodity to a team that, in the words of new president of baseball operations David Stearns, is trying to “thread a needle.” By that, Stearns means the Mets are trying to contend this season while also looking to give younger players a chance to show they can be long-term contributors.

J.D. Martinez Winds Up Getting Less Money

Martinez lost the chance to make more money by signing with the Mets. The San Franciso Giants offered him a one-year, $14 million deal earlier in February. Martinez declined the offer because he was concerned that his right-handed bat would not play well at Oracle Park.

The Mets and Martinez agreed to a uniquely structured contract that will likely help New York with luxury tax accounting. The Mets are already in line to pay a tax this season, but the contract would keep them from surpassing another tax level.

Martinez will receive a $2.5 million signing bonus and have a salary of just $2 million this season. The deal also includes $7.5 million in deferred money that will be made in five yearly payments of $1.5 million from 2034 to 2038.

Despite being 36 years old, Martinez is still a productive player.

He hit .271/.321/.572 with 33 home runs and 103 RBIs last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 113 games despite being hampered by back and groin injuries. Martinez was also selected to the All-Star Game for a third straight season and the sixth time in his 13-year career, which includes stints with the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox.

Mark Vientos Pushed Out of Mets’ Lineup

Mark Vientos, 24, was seemingly in line to be the Mets’ primary designated hitter this year. He now figures to be a right-handed hitter off the bench who can play both corner infield positions and occasionally spell Martinez.

The Mets also have two veterans in camp on minor-league contracts who were looking to get DH at-bats. However, it now seems unlikely that Ji-Man Choi or Luke Voit will make the team.

The Mets are looking to bounce back from a massively disappointing season in which they had a 75-87 record despite their $355 million payroll being the largest in MLB history.

The poor finish led to the departures of manager Buck Showalter and general manager Billy Eppler. While Stearns has taken over running the front office, former New York Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza begins his first season as manager.

Martinez should aid an offense that was 20th in the major leagues in scoring last season with an average of 4.43 runs a game. The Mets’ .238 batting average ranked 25th.

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