Edson: The Curious Case of J.D. Martinez

His pending departure from the Detroit Tigers is one of the worst kept secrets in baseball.

Yet, when J.D. Martinez returned to the team this weekend after missing the first eight weeks of the season, he had an immediate impact.

He hit two home runs on Saturday night – in his second game back from a foot injury – as the Tigers edged the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3.

Which leads to the simple question: Are the Tigers getting rid of the wrong Martinez?

The veteran Victor Martinez has struggled this season and his lack of foot speed has jammed up the Tigers on the base paths. Yet, there is no talk of getting rid of him, just yet.

Part of that is because other teams are reluctant to take on his big contract in the final year or two of his career.

So the bigger question is, why are the Tigers in such a hurry to jettison one of their best players? I know that Chris Ilitch, who now calls the shots for the Tigers, is reluctant to take on another big contract.

But if general manager Al Avila wants to solve the dilemma, he could try to duplicate what his predecessor Dave Dombrowski did.

Dombrowski was faced with getting rid of a contract that no one wanted – that of Prince Fielder. In truth, the Tigers had to shoulder some of the money from the remaining years on that contract, but they got All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler in return for Fielder. Two years later, Fielder was out of baseball due to an injury.

If Avila can dump Victor Martinez and his salary on an American League contender, he may solve the J.D. Martinez situation.

I’ve heard some Tiger fans say that the loss of J.D. Martinez would be "no big deal."

But actually it is a big deal.

When Martinez came to the Tigers in 2014 after being cast aside by the Houston Astros, no one expected much from him.

But then, this happened: That first year he hit .315 with 23 home runs and 76 RBI. In 2015, he smacked 38 home runs and drove in 102 runs. Last year, he hit .307 with 22 homers and 68 RBI.

So we’re talking about a corner outfielder who hits .282 for his career and will hit 30 homers and drive in between 90-100 runs.

That’s far better than the minor league outfielders the Tigers have been going with for much of the season, with the exception being Justin Upton.

For example, the cocky Tyler Collins – known more for flipping off Tiger fans than being a run producer – was in an 0-for-24 slump when J.D. Martinez came off the disabled list just in time.

If the Tigers are intent on getting rid of Martinez before the trade deadline, maybe they can make it a two-Martinez drink (J.D. and Victor) and get some young, hotshot prospects in return.

That’s the only way I can see that getting rid of J.D. Martinez makes sense.

As it stands right now, Martinez has admitted his foot is going to give him trouble all season, but as a professional, he needs to get back in the lineup and help his team.

I like that attitude. And I like his numbers.

It will be curious, indeed, to see how the J.D. Martinez situation plays out this summer in Detroit.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.