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Why Does the Cardinals Recent Trade for Jose Martinez Matter?

Jose Martinez

On Wednesday, the Cardinals acquired Royals minor league outfielder Jose Martinez for a (currently) undisclosed amount of cash.

Acquiring a player just for cash? He can’t be very good then right? Martinez’s batting crown in Triple A (.384) last year would disagree. Not to mention he had the second highest OBP (.461). So then the question is if the Royals saw something in Martinez that was worth giving him the ax for, or if they had just gotten impatient and the Cardinals jumped on the opportunity.

I’m going to stand by the latter. To start, regarding the trade Mike Matheny said, “I know it’s somebody we’ve had interest in in the past. When that opportunity popped up, it gives us a little more depth. I know [general manager John Mozeliak] was keeping an eye on him.” Moz and Matheny like him. That’s a good sign.

Why’d the Royals give him up cheap? Looking at their roster and tendencies make it clear. First of all, the team has a plethora of outfielders. Outside of Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, and Alex Gordon (the three starters when healthy), Paul Orlando is thriving in the majors (hitting almost .400 in 75 at bats), Jorge Bonifacio (age 22) is hitting .320 in AAA, Seuly Matias (age 17) is a highly touted international prospect, Bubba Starling (age 23) in AAA is highly regarded by the team, and they have some other potential future outfielders.

When Gordon got put on the DL on Monday the Royals had to decide whether to bring up Brett Eibner or Martinez. Being a team with such little power at the major league level currently (being third to last in home runs and fourth to last in total runs), they promoted Brett Eibner, who hit 19 dingers with 81 RBIs last year, and already has 10 homers this year, while they traded Martinez who hit 10 homers and 62 RBIs last year with just 3 home runs so far this year. After they picked to bring up Eibner, there was little use in keeping nearly 28-year old Martinez when the team has a solid core of outfielders for the present and future.

So exactly what value does Jose Martinez offer the Cardinals? That’s a tough question. The Cardinals have Grichuk, Holliday, Piscotty, Pham and Hazelbaker all MLB ready, plus Charlie Tilson, Harrison Bader, and Magneuris Sierra on their way up. I don’t know the definite answer to this question, but what I’ll say is this: First, Mozeliak has had his eye on Martinez, and the Cardinals tend to have been very successful under Moz’s eye. Second, Martinez can also play first base, making him more versatile in the position department. Third, all they gave up was cash to acquire him. Being a career .296 hitter in the minor leagues (without any major league appearances), Martinez knows how to get on base. He doesn’t have a ton of speed or power (at most 12 steals and 10 homers in a season), but he can hit and he has been around the minors for a while.

There’s a chance Martinez will never make it up to the majors, and if that’s the case, then the Cards will benefit from the deal because of the depth he adds (as an assurance) and for the leadership and experience he’ll bring to AAA. And if he does make the major league roster, and ends up making even a miniscule impact, then all the better.

Photo Credit Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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