JD Martinez to ‘slow down’ to prepare for Mets debut
JD Martinez to ‘slow down’ to prepare for Mets debut

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – JD Martinez and the New York Mets finalized a one-year, $12 million contract on Saturday.

The 36-year-old designated hitter gets a $2.5 million signing bonus, $2 million this year and $7.5 million in deferred money, payable in $1.5 million installments every Jan. 15 from 2034-38.

“Luckily I found a spot here with New York and one of those last-second type things and it worked out,” Martinez told reporters in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “I’m excited to be here. I know the guys are super excited to have me and I’m super excited to just be in the clubhouse with them and I’m ready for the journey ahead of us.”

Martinez hit .271 with 33 homers and 103 RBI in just 113 games last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers, providing solid value on the one-year, $10 million contract he signed before the season. Back and groin problems limited his availability, but he added a National League All-Star Game selection to his five AL appearances with Detroit and Boston.

He sits in the middle of the Mets’ lineup and gives them another power hitter to pair with Pete Alonso. Both can become free agents after this season.

Martinez said Alonso was a strong advocate of bringing him on board.

After waiting all spring to find a job, Martinez said he will likely need at least 15 days to prepare for the season. So he won’t leave camp with the Mets in time for Thursday’s opening day against Milwaukee.

“It’s kind of gross. Obviously I want to break with the team. I want to be there. I want to be there for Opening Day. It’s a special thing to be a part of,” Martinez said. “But I have to prepare my body. I have to do my spring training now and I have to prepare for the season. The last thing I want to do is just rush through it and So I want to make sure I take it slow and build my body up to get back there.”

To make room on Martinez’s roster, the Mets designated right fielder Phil Bickford for assignment.

David Stearns, the team’s new president of baseball operations, insisted the Mets want to give youngsters Mark Vientos and Brett Baty plenty of at-bats this season rather than bringing in a veteran at DH or third base. But now Martinez becomes the primary DH in place of Vientos, who can still share playing time at third with Baty, getting chances against lefties in particular.

Martinez said he and Vientos have a relationship that goes back a long way because they train at the same place. The veteran slugger said he encouraged Vientos not to be discouraged by the apparent loss of playing time because great opportunities can always arise for talented players — whether with the Mets or elsewhere.

“I understand his frustration,” Martinez said.

Over the past two seasons, Martinez has played the corner outfield positions sparingly, but has given every indication that he can be a productive DH. Last season marked the first time in Dodgers history that the team had four players with 100 RBIs, with Martinez joining Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy.

Martinez’s 33 home runs were his most since 2019, and his .893 OPS represented his highest level since that year.

Martinez began his career with Houston but flourished after being released by the Astros and picked up by the Tigers in 2014. He hit a career-high 45 homers for Detroit and Arizona in 2017, then joined the Red Sox and hit 43 the following year as Boston won its last World Series title.

Martinez was one of the best free agents left on the market. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery, another Scott Boras client, is still looking for a new team in the final days of spring training.

“The offseason was kind of a roller coaster,” Martinez said. “There are a lot of really good players who are in the same situation.”

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