The Diamondbacks demonstrated their seriousness about ending a six-year playoff drought by trading three prospects to the Detroit Tigers for slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez.
Martinez, who has hit 98 home runs over the past three and a half season, shores up a lineup that has struggled all season long against left-handed pitching and fills the starting spot in left field that has been in flux since Yasmany Tomas went on the disabled list on June 2.
He didn’t play his first game this season until May 12 due to a foot injury suffered in spring training but has already accumulated 16 home runs and 39 RBI in 57 games for the Tigers, along with a .305 average.
Martinez has just 45 plate appearances against left-handed pitching this season and is hitting .474 (18 for 38) with six home runs, four home runs and 11 RBI. In his career, he’s hitting .293 against lefties with 38 home runs in 719 plate appearances.
In return, the D-backs are sending third baseman Dawel Lugo, shortstop Sergio Alcantar and shortstop Jose King to the Tigers.
“I think any time you have the ability to acquire a bat that’s going to fit in the middle of your lineup, you want to take that opportunity,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said.
Martinez, 29, is in the final months of a two-year, $18.5 million contract and will hit the open market at the season’s end.
After failing to make much of an impact with the Astros in three seasons, he broke out in a big way after signing a major-league minimum $500,000 deal with the Tigers in 2014 and changing his approach at the plate to focus on swinging for the fences.
He played in 120 games for the Tigers in 2014 and finished with 22 home runs and a .307 average, followed by 38 home runs and a .282 average in 2015. He was limited to 120 games in 2016 due to a right elbow injury, hitting .307 with 22 home runs
The Diamondbacks entered Tuesday with a five-game losing streak to fall 10 ½ games behind the Dodgers in the National League West, but they had the fourth-best record in the major leagues (53-39) and are in the driver’s seat for a wild-card berth.
Hazen said the losing streak did not result in added urgency to make a deal.
“We’ve been marking this time of the season to do anything we could to help this team,” he said. “If we had one seven in a row, we would have been dealing with the same dynamic, how do you improve yourself from a roster construction standpoint.
“We’ve been working on this plan for a long time.”
Lugo, 22, was acquired from Toronto two seasons ago in a deal for Cliff Pennington and was rated by mlb.com as the organization’s fourth-ranked prospect. He is hitting .282 with seven home runs for Double-A Jackson in the Southern League. He hit .311 with 17 home runs last season at two levels.
Alacantara, 21, is rated as the organization’s No. 15 prospect. He is hitting .279 with three homers for Advanced-A Visalia of the California League. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.
King is only 18 and is in his first-season in the Arizona Rookie League. He signed with the D-backs as a non-draft free agent out of the Dominican Republic in October 2015.
Hazen said the team was trading from a position of organizational depth. “We felt like we had some protection in those spots,” he said.
Hazen said he hasn’t closed the door on other deals prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
“We’re still looking at all ways we can improve the organization between now and the deadline, but we have nothing imminent,” he said. “We will continue to look at the pitching market.”