ST. LOUIS - Dangerous temperatures in St. Louis and Carlos Martinez trade talk. Welcome to just about every July since 2013, St. Louis Cardinals fans.
It seems like every summer, Martinez finds his name in trade talks or possibilities. This week, The Athletic's esteemed baseball reporter, Ken Rosenthal (not the fake Twitter burner account), wrote a piece on the Cardinals potentially dangling Martinez and a young outfielder in trade discussions. Lane Thomas and Tyler O'Neill, who hit over 800 feet of homers last night, were the outfielders mentioned. Martinez's name being in there gathered the most heat.
And for a fitting reason. He's the prodigal son here, the one who was destined to be the ace of the present and the future who seemingly lost a handle on it last season. The shoulder ailment played a part, but mostly, it was attitude and mentality-related problems. As Yadier Molina noted before the 2018 season, it was the head game where Martinez needed work.
Here's the thing. Mentality repairs or not, Martinez shouldn't go anywhere this year unless the Cardinals are blown away. Trading him, even at the age of 27 while he spins away in the bullpen, would be a mistake. He's only the closer right now because Jordan Hicks' elbow exploded, and a need arose at last minute. According to some, he'd be a rotation candidate without the sudden injury to the young phenom. Turning this talent loose for a quick return wouldn't be a wise move.
Reason No. 1: Talent. Martinez still has droves of it. Just check out his work this year. He comes out of the pen with about sixteen pitches to offer a hitter, like a Mexican Restaurant with way too many pages on their menu for using the same few ingredients. Over his career, Martinez has a 3.35 ERA and 3.70 xFIP, and averages around nine strikeouts per nine innings. Even in a 2018 season where the disappointment arose, he was solid with a 3.11 ERA and fWAR of 2.2. There's still a bit of ceiling to get to for Martinez. He just needs to be utilized correctly.
Reason No. 2: Contract. He's in the midst of a team friendly contract that spans five guaranteed seasons and $51 million. There are club options for the following two seasons in 2022-23 totaling $35 million, which would be a bargain for a STARTER producing an average fWAR of 2.5. He will make $11.7 million in each of the next two seasons. That's $8 million total less than Miles Mikolas, who is having an uneven season.
Reason No.3: Need. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are both more than likely goners next year. Dakota Hudson looks to be legit, and Jack Flaherty is the real (if raw) deal. Mikolas will be there. Daniel Ponce de Leon has put together a nice stretch, but isn't a sure thing yet. The Cardinals will need quality starters the next couple years, and Martinez's right arm is as talented as any of them. It's been tested in a number of ways, and still thrives. He has confidence to spare yet experience to back it up. You can never have too much pitching.
Look, Martinez can be frustrating, but he's only been that way due to extremely high expectations. When Chris Carpenter retired and Adam Wainwright started to plummet while Wacha disappeared into an inconsistent abyss, Martinez was labeled the savior of the rotation. He didn't live up to those heights. But he can still be of high use and value to this team. He needs to be given another shot. Mentality can take its time with certain talents, but eventually, they come around.
Don't give up on Carlos Martinez. Not yet. There's a lot of talent there. Possibilities. I know it's going to be 100 degrees this week in St. Louis and the Hot Stove will heat up for the deadline, but let's stay seated unless an offer pulls us out of the chair.