Former Red Sox slugger JD Martinez may have a new suitor.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Pat Ragazzo, the Los Angeles Dodgers are “showing interest” in Martinez, which makes sense, given the many times he’s brought them pain. It was against the Dodgers that he became the 18th player in MLB history to hit four home runs in a single game. He was also a key reason the Sox popped champagne in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium when they won the 2018 World Series. And since that World Series, the Dodgers have been collecting players who bested them in it: Joe Kelly, Mookie Betts, David Price, Craig Kimbrel.
But it’s a member of their coaching staff who could be their best selling point with Martinez.
For several years, Martinez worked with current Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc. Before signing with the Red Sox in 2018, Martinez credited Van Scoyoc and his partner Craig Wallenbrock with saving his career, saying, “I am who I am because of them.”
Martinez began working with Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock after an underwhelming 2013 season, in which he’d hit .250/.272/.378 with 17 doubles and seven home runs in 86 games for the Houston Astros. The Astros released him in March 2014, before getting a chance to see how he’d improved. Two days later, the Detroit Tigers took a flyer on him, signing him to a minor-league contract. Martinez immediately rewarded their faith in him, hitting 23 homers and 30 doubles in 123 big-league games that year. The next year, he hit 38 home runs, was an All-Star for the first time, and won his first Silver Slugger.
The veteran slugger struggled with a serious drop in power in his final Sox season, only managing 16 home runs in 139 games. He’d hit between 28-43 home runs in his other three 162-game seasons in Boston. Excluding the 60-game season in 2020, it was his first season with under 20 home runs since 2013, when he struggled with the Astros and began his journey with Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock.
It wouldn’t be the first time a free agent made his decision based on a team’s coaching staff. Last fall, the Philadelphia Phillies convinced Washington Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long to jump ship. Long had been Kyle Schwarber’s hitting guru, and the slugger credited him with turning his career around after the Chicago Cubs non-tendered him following the 2020 season. Thanks to Long, Schwarber hit 25 home runs in 72 games with the Nationals before they dealt him to the Sox. In 2022, his first season with the Phillies and reunited with Long, Schwarber hit a career-high 46 home runs, the most in the National League.
Of course, Martinez was 26 when he began working with his hitting gurus, and he turned 35 this past August. Some things can be fixed, but Father Time doesn’t go backward.
But if Van Scoyoc can help Martinez bounce back in LA, it’ll be bad news for opposing pitchers.
Update: Dodgers signing JD Martinez to one-year, $10 million contract
On December 17, Jeff Passan reported that the Dodgers are, in fact, bringing JD Martinez to Los Angeles. He’s agreed to a one-year, $10M contract, and will reunite with Van Scoyoc and Betts.