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Just Don’t

Despite reportedly showing interest in J.D. Davis, the Mets lost him to the Oakland A’s this past week. The other free agent named J.D. is still out there – should the Mets pursue him?

When the San Francisco Giants released J.D. Davis last week, there were instant rumors that the Mets were considering trying to sign him. Almost as instantly, there was much debate as to whether or not this would be a wise move. When the Mets traded Davis to the Giants for Darin Ruf at the 2022 trade deadline, it was a confusing end to an inconsistent, and sometimes encouraging, tenure in Flushing. So it’s understandable that the team would want a second go-round with him. At the same time, for all the talk of how the Mets were going to use this season to properly evaluate Brett Baty and Mark Vientos, among others, a reunion with Davis could make that a little more complicated. And while it’s entirely possible that Davis will have a good season, would his impact be that significant for the Mets to alter their approach? Ultimately, it seems that the Mets weren’t really looking to make a drastic change to their plans, and Davis, sensing that his playing time with the team would not be guaranteed, decided to go to Oakland, where, let’s face it, most of us could get an opportunity.

There’s another J.D. that’s still out there and igniting some debate of his own. J.D. Martinez is a 6-time All-Star with some impressive stats over the past 9 seasons, and he’s still a free agent even with Opening Day looming. To take it a step further, I have wanted J.D. Martinez to be on the Mets since he became a free agent following the 2017 season. Even though he has a concerning injury history, he also has an impressive home run hitting and driving in runs history. For a team that often seems to just not score enough, he has seemed to me like someone who could change that narrative. And now, following a 33-HR, 103 RBI, .893 OPS season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martinez has been available since November and is still looking for a new baseball home.

I have no idea why it’s taken him this long to reach his next destination. Perhaps he’s looking for more years and/or more money than teams are willing to offer him. Perhaps teams are playing a game of free agent chicken with him,  hoping his contract demands come down enough where he becomes a bargain. He did miss a good chunk of time last year due to injury, something that’s common enough in his career to reasonably expect it to happen again. Still, how often does a player with Martinez’s home run hitting history become available, at any price, let alone a bargain-ish one? There is little doubt that adding him to the lineup would be an instant boost to this team’s run-scoring ability. That could be said for just about any team that added him.

Do you remember the movie “Swingers”? In case you don’t, let me remind you. And if you haven’t seen it yet and still plan to, you should skip down to the next paragraph. Also, if you haven’t seen it and you still plan to, the movie is almost 28 years old, and has probably surpassed the spoiler alert statute of limitations. Anyway…in the movie, Mike (the main character) is so distraught about his ex-girlfriend, Michelle, breaking up with him that it’s all he can talk about with his friends. After a series of funny events, Mike meets another woman who intrigues him so much that when Michelle calls him to profess her love for him he semi-politely hangs up to take the new woman’s call. To some degree, I can relate to feeling this way about J.D. Martinez. For 7 years I have been hoping that the Mets would find a way to get him on their team. And now here we are, possibly their best and last chance to do it, and…I don’t think they should.

As I wrote earlier, it’s not that he wouldn’t help the Mets. The issue for me is two-fold. First, once the Mets missed out on signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto, they shifted their direction towards giving opportunities to the future Mets. While they have a good enough team to remain competitive, as in it’s not a classic “rebuilding” season, they are going to use this year to determine how to plan for the next few seasons. Signing Martinez is a win-now move for a team that spent all of winter not prioritizing winning now. Second, any bargain that they get by waiting this long to sign him would be negated by the 110% penalties in luxury tax. Not only would that be problematic this year, it would affect their chances to make any major signings next season. As wealthy as owner Steve Cohen is, he still knows better than to commit to wasting money for an extended period of time. He is this wealthy for a reason.

It isn’t easy, nor is it automatic, for me to feel this way. I am sure that I would enjoy watching J.D. Martinez drive in runs for the Mets. I’ve been sure of that for a while now. I’m also sure, that it wouldn’t be the right move. For years I was hoping the Mets could figure out a way to just do it. And now, regrettably, I hope they just don’t.