Jose Martinez: +0.1 fWAR, -0.4 bWAR
Martínez spent time with the Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals organizations, even making a stop at the independent Frontier League (which features such local teams as the River City Rascals and the Gateway Grizzlies).
It was his performance at Omaha in AAA that caught the Cardinals’ attention: he set various single-season records for the modern-day Pacific Coast League (PCL). The Cardinals purchased him from the Royals for cash.
He finally made his major-league debut until September 6, 2016. After leading the club with 19 hits and 15 RBI in the following spring training, the Cardinals announced that Martínez made their 2017 Opening Day roster, his first in the major leagues (this was at the expense of fellow-outfielder Tommy Pham).
In 2017 he batted .309/.379/.518. Martínez began 2018 as St. Louis’ starting first baseman. Moved back to the outfield after several months of fielding difficulties, he finished his 2018 campaign slashing .305/.364/.457 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs in 152 games, and led the majors in percentage of balls hit to the opposite field (34.7%). For two straight years he led the Cardinals’ in average though his at-bats were not quite major league title qualifying.
In February 2019, Martínez signed a two-year, $3.25 million contract with the Cardinals. His season started strong, but started tailing downward quickly. Then the improved play of Dexter Fowler and the impressive fielding of Harrison Bader limited his playing time. And the vicious cycle began.
At the end of the season, with negative WAR (some of it fielding-related no doubt), it began to seem that the 31-year old Martinez’ rise from obscurity was starting to reverse Cinderellaesque.
Even with a one-game wild-card playoff where a deep pitching staff is not warranted, Mike Shildt may prefer other options to Martinez especially since he has hit left-handers particularly poorly this year. This despite the contagious enthusiasm Martinez brings to the Cardinals’ bench.