The departure of Justin Turner to the Red Sox was hard for Dodgers players and fans to swallow. JT has been a leader on this team for nearly a decade. What makes it a little easier, though, is who the team essentially replaced him with, as JD Martinez was signed to play DH for Los Angeles.
Martinez’s career has actually mirrored Turner’s in a lot of ways, even before they swapped teams this offseason. Both were light-hitting fringe big-leaguers who revived their careers with swing changes before the 2014 season, and both have been among the game’s best hitters ever since. Martinez has been a slightly better hitter in the last nine seasons, posting a 141 OPS+ compared to 133 for Turner. On the other hand, Turner provided a lot of value at third base, while Martinez’s defensive value was non-existent and he’s been mostly a DH.
Now, Martinez comes to L.A. to fill JT’s spot in the lineup and, perhaps, in the clubhouse. Los Angeles utilityman Chris Taylor, who had a swing-change renaissance himself a few years after Turner and Martinez, told Dodgers Nation he’s excited for Martinez’s presence in the lineup and the locker room.
“He’s just an unbelievable hitter. I know it can only help him that he’s getting linked up, him and [Robert Van Scoyoc] are finally getting linked up,” Taylor said. “So, I know Rob’s excited to have J.D. in the clubhouse, and I’m pretty sure J.D. has wanted to be here for quite a while.
“And I think, not only is he going to bring an unbelievable bat in the heart of our order, but as I said earlier, I think he’s a guy, everything I’ve heard from some of the Red Sox players is, he’s a guy everyone looked up to and he’s a guy that spoke up in hitter’s meetings and he’s just a student of the game. And he’s a true professional. And everything I’ve heard is he puts in more work in the batting cage than any other player in the game.
“So, having a guy like that with that work ethic and being able to be around him and pick his brain and just learn from him, I think will benefit everyone on our team.”
Before becoming L.A.’s hitting coach, Van Scoyoc was the private coach who helped both Taylor and Martinez become outstanding hitters. Martinez had a bit of a down year in 2022 — still an OPS+ of 117, but a down year by his standards — and hopefully being reunited with his hitting coach will help him bounce back to his previous levels.
Martinez isn’t a replacement for Turner, nor is he expected to be. But he should be able to fill some of the gaps left by Turner’s departure, and maybe even exceed JT’s performance on the field.