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AngelsWin.com Today: 2019-2020 Off-Season Starting Pitcher Trade Series: Carlos Martinez

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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer

This series will attempt to identify other potential front-line starters that the Angels can possibly trade for this off-season and we will start with the St. Louis Cardinals SP/RP, Carlos Martinez.


Contract Status - Signed thru 2021 on a 5-year, $50.5M ($10.1M AAV, 2017-2021) deal with two additional team option years for 2022 and 2023, for $17M and $18M, respectively, with $500,000 buyout's for each year. Controllable from his age 28 (2020) through his age 31 seasons, if both team options are exercised.

Repertoire (2019 as a Reliever) - Four-Seam Fastball (30.3%, 96.6 mph), Slider (28.4%, 86.0 mph), Sinking Fastball (20.7%, 94.3 mph), and Change Up (18.5%, 88.1 mph)

Statcast Information - Martinez has below average spin rates on his fastball and curve ball. However, his exit velocity has been in the mid-80's over the last five years (slightly above average) and his launch angle hovers at an average 6.3 degree angle which is what you would expect from a ground ball artist.

Injury History Risk - Medium-High (Shoulder tendinitis, shoulder strain, right lat strain, right oblique strain, and strained rotator-cuff, all of which occurred across multiple seasons starting in the Minors)

Three-Year History -


It should be noted that in 2017, Carlos pitched as a starter, then in 2018, due to injury, he pitched in a starter/reliever hybrid role, and in 2019, also due to injury and a roster decision made by the Cardinals, he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. If he returns to the rotation his velocity will likely decrease a tick or so, down to the 95 mph range, for his four-seam fastball (and, perhaps, his other pitches) in all likelihood.

Clearly, Martinez excels at keeping the ball in the park as he holds a career 0.70 HR/9 rate and he is above average in keeping runners on-base with a career 75.9% LOB% (League average was 72.3% in 2019). Additionally, hitters have some difficulty in making quality contact as he holds a career .237 BAA (League average was .249 in 2019).

Also here is Martinez' batted ball data:


As you can see Carlos is a heavy ground ball pitcher, who carries a career 53.1% GB%. By limiting line drives and fly balls, he is able to mitigate some of the Hard% contact he gives up and lets the infield defense do their work. Additionally, the balls that are put into play are spread around the diamond with 73% of them going to the left side or up the middle, while the other 27% go to the right side (1B/2B/RF) of the mound.


So first of all, Martinez has expressed to the Cardinals that he would like to return to the rotation in 2020. With St. Louis recently signing Korean starter/reliever Kwang-hyun Kim, they now have the flexibility to either place Carlos in their rotation and move Kim to the bullpen or, alternatively, trade Martinez and slip Kim into his slot or even top prospect Alex Reyes, whom St. Louis had high hopes on before his rash of injuries.

Additionally, the Cardinals need to improve their offense and many baseball beat writers have suggested they could add one or more impact bats. Names like Josh Donaldson for third base or a trade with the Indians for a superstar shortstop like Francisco Lindor have been proposed. This is important insofar that the Cardinals are already hovering at last year's Opening Day payroll and would likely want to free up a chunk of change in order to accommodate a move such as this, which makes a relatively expensive pitcher like Carlos a luxury St. Louis may not want to afford for the 2020 season.

For the Angels, they clearly need a quality starting pitcher and Martinez, when he was running right in the rotation from 2014 to 2017, was posting FIP numbers in the low-to-mid 3's, with 50%+ GB% rates. Now that the Angels have a superior defensive alignment of Simmons, Rendon, and Fletcher at SS, 3B, and 2B, respectively, adding a starter like Carlos would be a solid move, full of potential goodness.

On top of that Carlos' contract is not exorbitantly high, as he will make $11.7M for the next two years with an AAV of $10.1M per season. Then, once Pujols comes off the books, the Angels can make a decision on his first team option of $17M with a $500,000 buyout and then his second team option in 2023 for $18M, also with a $500,000 buyout.

The risk for the Angels is Martinez' more recent rotator-cuff strain that relegated him, in-part, to the bullpen last season. However, the Halos are in the interesting position of potentially running out a six-man rotation due to Ohtani's health concerns, so this may be the perfect landing spot for Carlos to ease himself back into a starting role.

Proposed Trade

If the Cardinals are making a move for an impact bat at 3B or even SS, moving some salary will probably be important for St. Louis management. Additionally, the infield logjam might result in having to move Matt Carpenter in trade as well because he is not a good third base defender anymore and first base is occupied by Goldschmidt for the next few years, not to mention Matt's salaries are high too ($18.5M per year).

Whether or not it is just Martinez or a combination of Carlos and Carpenter, the Angels can use one or both as they need a starter and they have the room for a first baseman who can also act as a lead-off hitter (and Jared Walsh happens to have two team options left so he becomes a depth piece until Carpenter leaves).

Martinez' valuation will be based upon how healthy he is and whether or not Eppler and his front office team believe that Carlos will be effective in those two team option years. A rough estimate of his surplus value could fall anywhere from about $25M-$30M, for two years of control on the low side, to $60M-$70M, for the full four years on the high side. The truth is probably somewhere in between, say $45M-$55M. As a side note Carpenter, who has two guaranteed years at $18.5M each for 2020 and 2021 and a third difficult-to-fulfill, vesting year, for the same amount, has little surplus value.

So a trade for just Martinez might look like this:

Angels send 1B/3B Matt Thaiss and SP Jose Suarez in exchange for SP Carlos Martinez

Thaiss and Suarez, despite spending a limited amount of playing time in the Majors, are still valued more as prospects than proven MLB talent. There is a case to be made that both have something on the order of $20M-$30M each in surplus value, at this moment in time, thus their inclusion together in the trade. Since they are spreading the value out, rather than maximizing in one player/prospect, it is possible that the Angels might have to throw in a mid or low-level prospect on top of this deal. Certainly the Cardinals could ask for a player like Brandon Marsh but when you consider the money and risk the Angels are potentially taking on in trade, that may be to large of an asking price, likely to be turned down by Eppler, and rightfully so, probably.

If the Angels also wanted Matt Carpenter, who could play the next two seasons at 1B for the Halos, the trade could expand a bit, to the following:

Angels send 1B/3B Matt Thaiss, SP Jose Suarez, SP Jose Soriano, and RP Daniel Procopio in exchange for SP Carlos Martinez and 1B Matt Carpenter

It seems logical that the Cardinals are going to move Carpenter in trade either this year or next. When you look at the profiles, Thaiss, on paper, looks a lot like Carpenter when he first started, so St. Louis might like to acquire him as a quality depth piece to either man 3B if they make a big trade or play in a backup role since he has a couple of options remaining and then reevaluate in 2021 or 2022.

Also the Cardinals just acquired the lefty Kim and adding another LHP in Suarez with options would provide further depth with the loss of Martinez behind the starting five. If Carpenter is involved in the trade, adding Soriano and Procopio would give the Cardinals a potential starter and reliever, respectively.

It should be noted that Matt Thaiss may not be a preferred target so the Cardinals could request a prospect like Jordyn Adams, Jeremiah Jackson, or any number of other names instead as part of a trade. They could instead ask for Luis Rengifo or Taylor Ward, in lieu of Thaiss or Suarez, as well.

For the Angels Carlos makes sense as a younger starter with proven capability that would probably excel having a sterling defensive alignment behind him. Adding Carpenter to play first base, as he has a lot in previous seasons, would likely add defensive value to the Halos too. Matt, who carries a career .372 OBP, could also hit lead-off in front of Rendon and/or Trout in the lineup on a daily basis, strengthening the Angels offense and run production hitting at the top-of-the-order.


Two-time, All-Star Carlos Martinez is not an ace-level starter. However, at times, he has the potential to pitch like one and putting him, as a ground ball pitcher, in a situation like Anaheim, where he can pitch in a five or six-man rotation and play in front of a strong defensive unit, will only help his skill set and strengthen the front-end of the Angels starting staff.

There are some probable good fits in trade with the Cardinals but Martinez and Carpenter both seem like good targets for the Angels because they fit needs that the Angels have in the rotation, at 1B, and at the lead-off position in the lineup and are not so exorbitantly expensive, due to their relatively large year-to-year salaries, that it will cost the Angels in terms of player and prospect value going back to the Cardinals in return.

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Just now, mymerlincat said:

No thank you, we saw what trading for SPs who really belong in the bullpen did for us with Harvey and Cahill last year.  Wouldn't expect much more out of Martinez.

Carlos Martinez is on a totally different level than Harvey and Cahill. He's also much younger and has succeeded in a starting role. The only reason he went to the BP was to ease him back from an injury, and he excelled in the role, while the Cardinals had depth at the SP position. 

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Just now, Chuckster70 said:

Carlos Martinez is on a totally different level than Harvey and Cahill. He's also much younger and has succeeded in a starting role. The only reason he went to the BP was to ease him back from an injury, and he excelled in the role, while the Cardinals had depth at the SP position. 

I'm just not too keen on making a trade for a starter who doesn't have a high chance of being better than any starting pitcher we currently have on the team.  To me, it's a waste of assets when we could just simply sign a guy like Alex Wood and save the assets to maybe make a deadline deal for a high end starter if the situation arises, sorta like Houston's deal for Greinke last year.  Or use them for a guy like Contreras.  Just feels to me like there's more attractive options if we decide to go the trade route.

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I think it would be a good option for the Angels, pending his medicals. One thing to consider is that while the Cardinals may not want to pay him 11.5 million to be in the bullpen, he was a valuable reliever last season so they may want a bullpen arm in return for him since they'd be losing a quality arm in the pen. Maybe the Angels could include Bedrosian or Middleton in a potential deal.

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The more i think about this, the more I really like it @ettin.

Carlos Martinez is as close as a #1 as there is out there that could possibly be had for more than just a year or two. 

Ray and Bauer are just one year removed from FA and Jon Gray just has two years left before he's a free agent.

Martinez has both ace type stuff and the swagger that's needed on the mound to lead the rotation IMO. You need that bulldog like we once had in Lackey and then Weaver to lead your staff.

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8 minutes ago, Bill Neftleberg said:

The kid has an electric arm but because of that these trade proposals are too low. The cardinals asking price would start with adell. Balk at that they have zero reason to talk to you

you don't get an arm like his for prospects you want to give up.

Every trade proposal starts with Adell but then after that doesn’t happen it gets more realistic. 

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2 hours ago, Bill Neftleberg said:

The kid has an electric arm but because of that these trade proposals are too low. The cardinals asking price would start with adell. Balk at that they have zero reason to talk to you

you don't get an arm like his for prospects you want to give up.

This discussion wouldn't start with Adell. However, it may start with Marsh and that could end the conversation if the Cardinals don't relent on their ask. The key here is the Cardinals payroll situation as they currently sit at what their Opening Day payroll was last season and don't have as much room in terms of money. If they are really serious about picking up Donaldson, Lindor, Ozuna, or even a Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado type that will eat up a huge chunk of payroll. If they decide to go that route they will very likely want to cut payroll in other areas and Martinez and Carpenter both represent pieces of the puzzle that they could shed to make room. Remember that the Angels are taking on medical risk with Martinez and may not get full value out of him over all four years of potential control which should bring down the price slightly in my opinion. You are overvaluing Carlos by suggesting Adell, he is not worth Jo by any stretch.

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I would again remind everyone reading that these articles represent potential, achievable alternatives to find a stable, front-end type starting pitcher. We can argue about the asking price but most of these proposed deals have many mitigating factors surrounding them that could favor the Halos in negotiations.

In fact I think if the Cardinals were able to shed both Martinez and Carpenter in the same deal it would decrease their asking price because the Angels (or any team) would be helping them shed $30.2M for the 2020 and 2021 season (each). That is Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, or Francisco Lindor type money and St. Louis needs to upgrade the quality of their players, rather than the quantity. Having a trade partner that can handle taking that much money off of their plate would probably be an ideal situation for them this off-season.

Shedding two approximate 2.5 WAR players for a 6 WAR player is the type of move they want to do. They have plenty of pitching to make up the difference in both the rotation and the bullpen.

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