By: Will Burchfield
J.D. Martinez understands baseball’s a business. He knows what happens off the field is beyond his control.
But if it were up to him, the Tigers’ right fielder would play the rest of his career in the city where he’s made his name.
“I love Detroit. They gave me the opportunity when no other team did, and for that I’m grateful. I would love to stay here my whole career,” Martinez said. “But obviously that’s something that’s hard to kind of plan out and for it to happen, so you just gotta have faith in God and go wherever he sends me.”
Martinez was signed by the Tigers in the 2014 offseason after being released by the Astros. He tallied 23 home runs and a .912 OPS in his debut season and hasn’t looked back since, establishing himself as one of the best offensive outfielders in the game.
But a potential Tigers’ rebuild, precipitated by GM Al Avila’s season-ending comments last November, thrust Martinez and a number of his high-profile teammates into trade rumors throughout the 2016-17 offseason. For Martinez, 29, the situation is further complicated by the fact that he is line for a massive raise in free agency next winter, a raise the Tigers are unlikely to give him.
“Obviously, you never want to hear that kind of stuff. You never want to be traded, especially on a team like Detroit (where) I find myself at home,” Martinez said. “But it is what it is. It’s baseball. It’s a business, I understand completely. I try not to think about it, just go out there and prepare for February 15, whether it’s here or anywhere else.”
Ian Kinsler, whose name was swirling in rumors right there with J.D.’s, took the same approach.
“You just kind of ride it out, see what happens. At the time, obviously you don’t want to be traded. I wanted to stay in Detroit. I like it here, I’ve been playing good here, it’s fun to play in front of the fans here, so I don’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “But at the same time, it is a business and Al needs to make decisions based on that.”
The Tigers’ great offseason makeover ultimately never came to be, much to the relief of Kinsler and Martinez.
“I like this team, I like this city, I like the group of guys that we have. I think we’re going to be good,” Kinsler said. “If I had a magic eight ball come trade deadline, I think Al’s hands are going to be handcuffed. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to make too many moves, I think we’re going to be in a good position.”
All along, both Martinez and Kinsler understood Avila wasn’t going to make trades simply to save money. The GM told them as much when last season came to a close.
“He wasn’t just trading players left and right, trying to dump players,” Martinez said. “He was looking for specific kind of players and specific prospects to bring into this organization and he wasn’t able to get them. So you know what? We’re back here today and hopefully we’re all here on Opening Day and we’re ready to go. I like our team, I like the chances we have.”