Toronto has a clear opening at designated hitter now that Shohei Ohtani has chosen to sign with the Dodgers, and Martinez would fill that role quite capably. The former Tigers, D-backs, Red Sox and Dodgers slugger is coming off a resurgent .271/.321/.572 batting line with Los Angeles, where he belted 33 home runs in just 479 trips to the plate. Martinez’s rebound in the power department was accompanied by a career-worst 31.3% strikeout rate, which is alarming for a 36-year-old bat-only player, but the 2023 production was undeniably excellent.
Martinez would effectively be replacing Brandon Belt, who enjoyed a productive season as the Jays’ primary designated hitter but comes with greater platoon splits. Belt, as he’s done throughout most of his peak, crushed right-handed pitching but was a non-factor against lefties (.235/.308/.265 in 39 plate appearances). Martinez, meanwhile, tormented both left-handers (.274/.343/.581) and right-handers (.270/.312/.569) alike.
The Jays currently project for a $203MM payroll, per Roster Resource, which clocks in about $11MM shy of their 2023 end-of-season mark. They’ll be in franchise-record payroll territory even if they don’t make any other additions, thanks largely to arbitration increases for Guerrero, Varsho, Jansen and others. That said, the Jays’ pursuits of Ohtani and Juan Soto, plus their reported interest in Yoshinobu Yamamoto and other free agents indicate that ownership is comfortable adding to the payroll. Martinez’s age likely caps him at a two-year deal (if not a one-year pact), which should only increase his appeal to a win-now club like Toronto.
It’s not an ideal fit between the two parties, as Martinez would give the Jays yet another right-handed bat in a lineup that’s already lacking lefty hitters. Daulton Varsho figures to slide over to center field if free agent Kevin Kiermaier signs elsewhere, and the lineup doesn’t have any other everyday players who bat from the left side. Cavan Biggio and outfielder Nathan Lukes could get some looks, as could infield prospect Addison Barger, but the vast majority of the lineup consists of right-handed bats: Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen and Davis Schneider.
The Jays could still sign Martinez and bring in a different…