The Toronto Blue Jays could emerge as a dark horse candidate for star free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez.
To this point, Martinez has been mostly connected to the Red Sox, the incumbent Diamondbacks, and at least a couple teams that are looking at superstar trade option Giancarlo Stanton first — the Giants and Cardinals.
And the Blue Jays have been linked to free agent outfielder Jay Bruce, a player they like and nearly traded for before.
But while the Blue Jays may not consider themselves a favorite for Martinez, he fits their need for a corner outfielder and they have at least considered him. They may be a bit leery of where the price might go after his monster season — his .690 slugging percentage would have been the highest since Barry Bonds with a few more plate appearances to qualify — and they’ve lost out to some big free agents in recent years (Dexter Fowler is an example), but he is at least on their radar.
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins declined comment.
Bruce would be a good fit for them, as well, but he won’t come cheap, either. A report by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN suggested his asking price was $80 million or more, still quite a bit less than the $200 million suggested in the report for Martinez.
The Blue jays have an obvious need in the outfield, and are not expected to bring back long-time star Jose Bautista, who struggled last year (they weren’t expected to bring him back last year, either). They also haven’t really replaced the offense lost when Edwin Encarnacion departed for the Indians, who paid him $60 million over three years after Toronto had made an offer for one more year at the same annual salary.
Martinez also may not mind Toronto as a destination. He played most of his career in Detroit before his trade to Arizona, where he thrived even more.
The Diamondbacks have been painted as a long shot in the derby, but they love him after a brilliant second half in which he posted an otherworldly .741 slugging percentage. Overall, he hit 45 home runs (in only 119 games) with 104 RBI.