Mets react to J.D. Martinez deal: ‘He’s going to help us out a ton’

TAMPA, Fla. — On the morning after the New York Mets agreed with J.D. Martinez on a one-year deal, Pete Alonso gushed as he accurately rattled off some of the new addition’s career accolades.

• Six-time All-Star

• Three-time Silver Slugger

Also, Alonso pointed out that Martinez would be the only Mets player to have won a World Series. Minutes later inside the Mets’ clubhouse on Friday, Francisco Lindor, just off the top of his head, listed some of Martinez’s 2023 statistics.

• .271 batting average

• 33 home runs

Lindor failed to remember the exact number of Martinez’s RBIs (103) — “104? … 107?” Lindor said — but by then he didn’t have to. It was clear that Mets veterans and officials understood what Martinez’s presence could mean for their playoff odds.

“He’s just an unbelievable player,” Alonso said. “What he’s able to bring every single day and consistently year in and year out, he’s a stud. And he’s going to lengthen our lineup, be a huge part in our success this year.”

Lindor said, “He’s someone who is definitely going to help us.”

On March 19, FanGraphs projected the Mets to win 80 games with a 27 percent shot at making the playoffs. By Friday, those figures increased to 81 games and 31.5 percent. Small yet meaningful.

Behind three projected division winners, FanGraphs gives nine teams playoff odds ranging from 23.4 percent (Cincinnati Reds) to 56.1 percent (Philadelphia Phillies). With three wild-card entrants, the field of capable teams appears crowded. Increasing those odds, even marginally, qualifies as significant.

However, rival scouts still don’t exactly love the Mets’ chances over other clubs. They cite the club’s starting pitching as a concern. Yet with Martinez now in the lineup, one person said, “They should be able to bang.”

“He’s going to help us out a ton,” Alonso said. “I’m really excited.”

Owner Steve Cohen shared the sentiment so much that he texted Brandon Nimmo and Lindor a message Thursday night that read, at least in part, “J.D. Martinez.” Lindor didn’t elaborate further on the content of the text. Perhaps nothing else needed to be said.

“I am glad he is with us,” Lindor said. “He’s been one of the best hitters in the league for a very long time.”

Alonso described Martinez as a “hitting savant.” That’s how many around the game perceive Martinez, who was well ahead of the curve years ago when he retooled his approach and swing. But the veteran slugger is also the kind of player who needs a certain amount of at-bats to feel ready for major-league games.

So, Martinez gave the Mets consent to start in the minor leagues in order to get enough at-bats to prepare, a person briefed on the matter confirmed.

Martinez beginning the season in the minors would leave the Mets with some interesting decisions for their Opening Day roster.

While Mark Vientos — a right-handed batter like Martinez — appears squeezed out of steady playing time when everyone is available, it’s possible the Mets use him at the start of the season. In his first at-bat on Friday, Vientos hit his fifth home run of spring training.

“The biggest thing with Mark is, just continue to do the things he’s been doing and opportunities will arise,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said. Mendoza would not comment on Martinez because Martinez’s deal won’t become official until after he passes a physical. Mendoza also wouldn’t say who the starting third baseman was, but it has appeared to be Baty, a left-handed batter, since the start of camp.

Mendoza said it wouldn’t be impossible to carry both young players on the roster even though one wouldn’t be in a steady role, but added that the club has to weigh what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player’s overall development.

Mendoza said he spoke with Vientos, 24, on Friday to just check in on him and told him, “Just keep being yourself.”

“He’s a huge part of our future here, and our present, too,” Mendoza said. “He will get opportunities. It’s just one of those where we will see what happens.”

Vientos said he learned of Martinez’s signing from his agent. In a brief interview on Friday, he was asked what the first thing that came to mind was. After thinking for a couple of moments, he said, “Good pickup for the team,” he said.

Vientos said earlier in the spring that he plays with a chip on his shoulder, and hitting a home run today was a good sign that that will continue. Asked to assess his spring, Vientos said, “The opportunity I got, I feel like I made the most of it.”

If the Mets carry Vientos, that would still leave them with one more bench spot open. Among the options are left-handed batters DJ Stewart, who has a minor-league option, and Ji-Man Choi, who can opt out of his split contract.

After much was made over Alonso’s lack of protection in the lineup, one evaluator raised a new twist on the topic: Who is protecting Martinez? To the scout’s point, Martinez continued to crush fastballs last season, but he also saw less of them, and that’s a trend that may continue. He also may see fewer pitches in the strike zone.

Multiple people suggested that Martinez always viewed the Mets as a preferred landing spot. In addition to accepting deferrals (an important part for the club because of luxury-tax implications), Martinez took less money to play for the Mets instead of the San Francisco Giants, league sources said.

(Photo of J.D. Martinez: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

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