ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 19: Jose Martinez #38 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates scoring a run … [+] during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on September 19, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
The Chicago Cubs made a move Sunday to bolster their flagging offense, reportedly acquiring designated hitter Jose Martinez from the Tampa Bay Rays. The move comes a day ahead of the 2020 trade deadline of August 31.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report the deal, tweeting that the Cubs would be sending two players to be named later to Tampa Bay. But, as the press release from the Cubs detailed, the deal could actually end up being one player and cash, or just cash.
Martinez is at the end of a two-year, $3.25 million deal and will be arbitration eligible in 2021. He has just over three years of major league service time accrued so far. Martinez has struggled some with the Rays this season, slashing .239/.329/.388 with six extra-base hits, but his numbers against left-handed hitters shed some light on why the Cubs traded for him. Martinez has a career 153 wRC+ against lefties. He will presumably help cover for the lack of right-handed production against southpaws that has come from the absences of Kris Bryant Stephen Souza, Jr. while both are on the injured list.
The Cubs have also had a need for production from the DH spot in the lineup. Their usual rotation of designated hitters has collectively produced a 36 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers this season. So even if Martinez does not hit as well as he has in the past, he will be a marked improvement with the 95 wRC+ against lefties that he has produced so far in 2020.
After coming out of the gate at 13-3 thanks in part to an offense that put up at least six runs in five of its first seven games, the Cubs have scuffled of late. They are 6-9 in the last two weeks.
Martinez will be returning to the familiarity of the National League Central, where he played four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals before being traded on January 9 to the Rays. Martinez had a .821 OPS with the Cardinals and batted .538 during the Cardinals 2019 postseason run to the NLCS.
Because Martinez is not free-agent eligible until after 2022, the Cubs will have the option to retain him through arbitration or an extension. Along with serving as the designated hitter, Martinez has experience playing first base and the corner spots in the outfield.
Catcher Josh Phegley was designated for assignment to make room for Martinez. The Cubs 60-man player pool now stands at 57 with 27 players on the active roster.
I have covered baseball for several years at places like Sporting News, Chicago Magazine, and NBC Chicago, along with Forbes. First year BBWAA member in 2019. Follow me
I have covered baseball for several years at places like Sporting News, Chicago Magazine, and NBC Chicago, along with Forbes. First year BBWAA member in 2019. Follow me on Twitter: @jwyllys.
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