Martinez, 29, didn’t make his season debut until May 12 due to a foot sprain, but since returning he’s been having the best season of his major-league career, hitting .306/.384/.622 with 15 homers in 224 plate appearances.
The Cardinals connection comes as a major surprise, as St. Louis is two games under .500 heading into play on Sunday and is 6.5 games out of both the NL Central and Wild Card races. While they’ve been connected to players like Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton who could boost an improbable playoff push this season while also contributing beyond 2017, this is the first time they’ve been linked to a pure rental like Martinez, who will hit the free agent market at the end of this season.
St. Louis already has a surplus of outfielders, including Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk, plus thriving Triple-A prospects Harrison Bader and Jose Adolis Garcia, so they’ll presumably want to move at least one of those guys if they’re going to make a trade for Martinez.
A Martinez deal for the Dodgers sounds more likely, as they’ve long been rumored to want to move on from Yasiel Puig in right field, attempting to do so by trading for Josh Reddick at the deadline last year. While they might have to unload Puig, who is hitting a solid .253/.328/.471 with 18 homers in 332 plate appearances this season, in a separate deal, they’d be ensured in right field even if Martinez left as a free agent after the season, as their top position player prospect, Alex Verdugo, will likely be ready for full-time duty next season.
Kansas City has gotten steady production from its rookie right fielder, Jorge Bonifacio, this season, as he’s hit .254/.323/.450 with 11 homers in 266 plate appearances. While Martinez would take the Royals’ production in right field from good to great, it’d seemingly make more sense for them to cash in their limited trade chips for pitching help. Any potential deal would likely be more costly for the Royals than it’d be for the Dodgers or Cardinals, as Detroit will want to get everything it can from a division rival.
Martinez has also been linked to a pair of NL West clubs in recent days, with MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi mentioning him as a suitor for both the Rockies and Diamondbacks. At face value, Colorado has great outfield depth, but their projected left fielder, David Dahl, hasn’t played a game yet this year due to a stress reaction in his rib, and longtime starting right fielder Carlos Gonzalez is in the midst of his worst major-league season, hitting .215/.294/.330 with six homers in 306 plate appearances. Though he was set to move to first base this season, Ian Desmond has ended up playing mostly left field this year due to Mark Reynolds’ impressive production. But Desmond, who signed the richest contract in Rockies history this offseason, hasn’t exactly been impressive, hitting .283/.321/.388 with five homers in 236 PAs.
Adding Martinez would also be a luxury for Arizona, which is getting very good production out of A.J. Pollock and David Peralta and is set to plug Yasmany Tomas back into left field later this season. But Martinez would represent a defensive upgrade over Tomas and could be just what Arizona needs to vault the surging Dodgers in the NL West.