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Dodgers embrace the designated hitter by signing J.D. Martinez

35-year-old slugger gets a reported $10 million for one year

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2022 Gatorade All-Star Workout Day Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

We knew the Dodgers would add at least one starter-level bat this offseason, and the various positional alignments would solve themselves later. It appears the Dodgers focused mostly on the bat portion of the equation, agreeing to terms with J.D. Martinez on a one-year, $10-million contract, per multiple reports.

Martinez hit .274/.341/.448 with 43 doubles, 16 home runs, and a 119 wRC+ in 2022, but perhaps more importantly did not start a game in the field. All 139 of his starts last season came as designated hitter, a position the Dodgers have been loath to commit to one player in the two seasons it’s been at National League teams’ disposal for every game.

In 2022, fourteen different Dodgers started at designated hitter, including five players with more than 10 starts at the position. Justin Turner led with the way with 61 starts at DH in addition to 66 starts at third base. One wonders if the signing of Martinez makes it less likely Turner will return to Los Angeles, or at least reduces Turner’s role should he come back.

Martinez started 28 games in right field and seven games in left field in 2021.

The now 35-year-old Martinez resurrected his career in the offseason between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, revamping his swing with the help of Robert Van Scoyoc, who is now the Dodgers’ hitting coach. Martinez in the last nine seasons has 258 home runs and 295 doubles, hitting .295/.362/.547 with a 140 wRC+.

In September 2017, Martinez — then with the D-backs — hit four home runs in a game at Dodger Stadium.

Martinez in 2022 hit .319/.419/.597 with 16 doubles and five home runs against left-handed pitchers, with a 175 wRC+ that ranked eighth in the majors. The Dodgers as a team last year had a 113 wRC+ against southpaws. That was well above average and ranked eighth in the majors, but it was their weaker side. Los Angeles led the majors with a 122 wRC+ against right-handers in 2022.

Martinez with the Dodgers rejoins Mookie Betts, his teammate with the Red Sox in 2018 and 2019.

Adding Martinez will push the Dodgers’ payroll for competitive balance tax purposes to roughly $206 million. The Dodgers will need to make a corresponding roster move once the Martinez deal is finalized, to make room on the 40-man roster.