Return package from Arizona in J.D. Martinez trade makes sense for Tigers

NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.

Tuesday was a hard day for baseball fans in Detroit, seeing a fan favorite in J.D. Martinez get traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Anyone who has watched the Tigers closely over the last few years knows what Martinez has meant to the club and how much he was liked, as evident by his emotional farewell post-news break on Tuesday.

But it's a move that was almost inevitable, as general manager Al Avila said that talks were ongoing with various clubs over the last couple weeks now. And in return, the Tigers are getting a trio of prospects from the Snakes in an effort to help replenish the farm system.

A lot of opinions have already been formed about how good of a job Avila and the Tigers did in terms of bringing back talent. My opinion? It was not only the smart move, it was the right move.

J.D. Martinez
Mar 16, 2017; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. The Tigers won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Tigers have now won a season-high four straight games with their 9-3 victory on Tuesday, the team had waived the proverbial white flag weeks prior. The question became, “who was going to get traded first, and when?” as opposed to, “are they going to trade away players?” Detroit was just playing far too erratic and underperforming for a club boasting a ton of talent and carrying a payroll that can be viewed as embarrassing given what the results have been thus far.

So back to this Martinez-to-Arizona trade. What did the Tigers get exactly? Well, they are getting exactly what they have needed for the longest time: position player depth in their minor league system.

More specifically, it is infield player depth. Prior to Tuesday's deal, Detroit had just four infielders listed among their top 30 prospects overall, per MLB Pipeline. The rest were either pitchers or outfielders. The transaction yesterday immediately plugs two more infield prospects into the Tigers' list of top 30.

Dawel Lugo, who was Arizona's No. 4 prospect, now sits as the Tigers' No. 11 prospect in the system. And Sergio Alcantara, previously the D-Backs' No. 15 prospect is tabbed at No. 18 for Detroit.

Just in case you didn't frantically look up the numbers for each of these three prospects Detroit received once the news broke, here's a brief run down on each player.

  • DAWEL LUGO: The 22-year-old Dominican-born Lugo began his professional career at the age of 17 in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. He was shipped to Arizona in August of 2015. Lugo this year at Double-A is hitting .282 with a .753 OPS. For his first six seasons, he's carrying a career .277 BA and .706 OPS, showing great plate discipline.
  • SERGIO ALCANTARA: Another Dominican-native, the 21-year-old Alcantara has been in the Arizona system since the age of 16. He's hitting just under .280 with a .706 OPS at High-A this year. Like Lugo, he is a very disciplined hitter but for his career, Alcantara doesn't hit quite as well as Lugo, yet.
  • JOSE KING: Arizona signed Jose King out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 when he was just 15 years old. Now 18, King was playing down at the Rookie Level for the Diamondbacks. The middle infielder is hitting .261 with a .681 OPS in 13 games since that league's season began a few weeks ago, playing both second base and shortstop.

Now when people heard about this package of Dominican-born talent Detroit received in exchanged from J.D. Martinez, it was a like a bar fight of opinions. This is actually a live look at how it went down at one point with some of us here at DSN. [Spoiler alert: Not an actual video of us]

The biggest question from pundits opposing the J.D. Martinez trade was, “did the Tigers get enough in return?” Martinez was not only arguably their best performer since he returned from the disabled list in May, but has been one of the premier sluggers in all of baseball since he burst onto the scene. “Surely Detroit could have done better, right?”

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers
Feb 24, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) swings at strike three to end the fourth inning during a spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Well, let's think about this for a second:

  1. J.D. Martinez is nothing more than a 2+ month rental for Arizona. That alone would suggest that no buyer in any situation would be as willing to part ways with one of their top prospects in exchange for a soon-to-be free agent.
  2. J.D. Martinez initially was not getting many looks on the open market. It's not an indictment on J.D., it's just a simple fact that premium bats, even of his caliber, were not as needed this go-round.
  3. Arizona was really the only team that showed legitimate attraction towards Martinez and seemed to be the only true fit for a bat like his. Even as potent of an offense the Snakes are already, they are taking advantage of bringing in a guy that torches left-handed pitching, into a division that is loaded with left-handed pitching.
  4. This is sort of “3a” if you will, but because of who the best possible trade partner was for Detroit regarding Martinez, the return package was never going to be supreme, to begin with. To sum it up, between the two organizations, the Tigers and Diamondbacks have just one prospect that is rated among the MLB Top 100, per MLB Pipeline, and that's Detroit's No. 1 chip in Matt Manning.
  5. There's now also an injury concern to a degree with J.D. Martinez. His preseason foot injury that sidelined him until early May this year has affected his play in the outfield and slowed him down, literally. It's two times now in as many seasons that he's missed significant time, albeit on somewhat ‘freak' instances. And he literally left what turned out to be his final game with the Tigers with lower back tightness.

Add all of that up and it fits the bill. The Tigers may not have gotten the sexiest package in return, but it was absolutely the right package of players that they needed and a fair trade for both clubs.

It's going to be tough to see J.D. play in another uniform. It will be hard finding a person who had a more difficult time doing so than the man who had to sign off on the deal, Al Avila. But he had to take various things into consideration and do what was best for the club and make a deal when it was of the highest interest to an opposing club.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
Sep 4, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) hits a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers are at a point where they are fielding a team that is too strained financially, largely by aging stars and their reinforcements down in the bushes collectively are a weak bunch. Avila is thinking towards the future with a trade like this, replenishing the minor league system as much as possible.

Prospects are prospects, they are nothing more or less until they have had their chance to audition for regular appearances in the movies. Time will only tell when and if Lugo, Alcantara and King will develop into something. Patience is a virtue and no sport demands that more than the game of baseball.

We, of course, wish J.D. Martinez all the best in the desert and hope he can help deliver them to their ultimate goal. For me personally, I tip my cap to Al Avila on the trade he made yesterday, despite it being a difficult one for everyone.