Starting pitcher Nick Martinez excelled for the San Diego Padres during the 2023 season, pitching to a tidy 2.32 ERA and holding opponents to a paltry .557 OPS, his 1.08 WHIP indicative of just how stingy he was at allowing opposing baserunners.
Reliever Nick Martinez excelled for the San Diego Padres during the 2023 season, too. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 IP of relief work, his 3.14 K/BB a significant uptick from his work as a starting pitcher.
That’s the thing about Martinez - he’s a swingman with the ability to fill both roles. That made him especially attractive to the Cincinnati Reds as they head into the 2024 season, as they’ve got a bullpen that needs help wherever it can get it and a mix of talented, though yet undependable starting options around a lineup that’s ready to contend. The fit seemed perfect from the moment free agency began after the World Series, and for Martinez, at least, his free agency window has now closed.
He’s on the Cincinnati Reds, folks, having reached an agreement with the club on a two-year contract that will pay him $26 million in total should he not opt-out after the first year. Pelota Cubana’s Yusseff Diaz first reported the deal late last night, while ESPN’s Jeff Passan later confirmed it with the numbers.
The 33 year old former Fordham Ram (shoutout Scoberg!) took a long and winding road to success in the game of baseball, being initially an 18th round pick by the Texas Rangers back in 2011. He busted his way into their rotation first in 2014, and across 2014-2015 pitched to a solid-ish 96 ERA+ across 265.1 IP for them. His production waned over the next two seasons, however, and he began to more often shift back to the bullpen before being released by Texas at the end of the 2017 season.
He landed in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters for a trio of seasons, later pitched excellently for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks for the bulk of the 2021 season, and returned to MLB with the San Diego Padres for the 2022 season on a deal that included multiple opportunities to opt-out at the end of seasons. That happened at the end of 2023, a year in which he posted a 3.43 ERA in total (119 ERA+) across 110.1 IP.
He’s got the ability to help the Reds in many ways, obviously. He has made 87 starts at the big league level over the course of his career, and that excellent 2021 season for the Ham Fighters and Softbank Hawks saw him log 149.2 IP, a total slightly shy of 161.2 IP he logged in 2018 in the JPPL. In other words, he’s shown he can log innings, something the youthful rotation needed desperately as it struggled to stay healthy last season.
As thing stand in this very, very young offseason, he pencils in as a starter, something that he’ll surely get the chance to do for a good chunk of the 2024 season even if the Reds continue to add to their rotation options. If everyone’s healthy, the likes of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Brandon Williamson, and Andrew Abbott likely slot in around Martinez in some form or fashion, with Connor Phillips, Lyon Richardson, & Co. serving as depth pieces that will inevitably be called upon later. As last season showed, however, health is never a guarantee with pitchers, and having robust options is a luxury that any team that can afford it should pursue.
These Reds, finally, seem to be pursuing that luxury, with Martinez their latest find.