Jorge Soler vs. J.D. Martinez: Who is a better fit for the Arizona Diamondbacks?

Jorge Soler and J.D. Martinez are two of the best designated hitter options on the free agent market, and with the Arizona Diamondbacks needing a DH, who would be the best fit?

Division Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two
Division Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two / Harry How/GettyImages
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The Arizona Diamondbacks need a designated hitter. Last season, their DH’s combined for a .235/.303/.416 triple-slash, a .310 wOBA, and 93 wRC+. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Tommy Pham, and Evan Longoria saw the most time at DH, and they’re all free agents. But there are two free agents with whom the Diamondbacks have had some connection: Jorge Soler and J.D. Martinez. Both would be the massive DH bat the D-Backs sorely need in the line-up. But between the two, who would be the better fit?

Jorge Soler

Jorge Soler’s first season in Miami did not go well. He was injured for a good portion of the season and only registered a wRC+ of 95. However, Soler was a major contributor to the Marlins’ offense in 2023. He played a lot and was one of the best power hitters in baseball last year. Soler declined his player option, meaning he would hit free agency once again.

In 580 plate appearances, Soler batted .250/.341/.512 with 36 home runs. The DH/OF clocked in with an isolated slugging percentage of .262. Although Soler’s 24.3% strikeout rate was slightly below league average, he offset that with a quality 11.4% walk rate. All told, Soler had a 126 wRC+ and a .361 wOBA.

Soler had an impressive 15% barrel rate that ranked in the top 91st percentile. However, he was also well above average in hard-hit rate (48%, top 84th percentile) and exit velocity (91.3 MPH, top 81st percentile). Soler’s underlying numbers painted an even better picture. The slugger clocked in with a .532 xSLG% (20 points higher than his bottom line SLG%) and a .374 xwOBA (12 points higher than his wOBA).

Soler is the younger of the two DH-free agents. Next year will be his age-32 season, and while that’s not young, it’s not too old, either. MLB Trade Rumors project him to sign a three-year deal valued at $45 million. On average, that would mean that he’s making about $15 million a season. The Athletic is a little less generous, having him at a two-year deal worth $32 million. That’s less in total and $1 million more on an AAV basis. $15-$16 million a season sounds about right, but I’d be more inclined to say that Soler signs for three years rather than two. If he does sign for two, it will be with a third-year player or team option.

J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez had a short stint in 2017 as the Diamondbacks’ left fielder. Acquired at the trade deadline, Martinez was a massive boost to the D-Backs’ line-up, and that’s putting it lightly. He went yard 29 times in just 62 games. After spending a handful of seasons with the Boston Red Sox, he latched on with the LA Dodgers last year on a one-year deal, and had his best campaign since 2019.

Martinez batted .271/.321/.572 with 33 dingers. He was a power machine, and his .301 isolated slugging percentage was one of the best in Major League Baseball last season. Among players with at least 450 plate appearances, his ISO ranked behind just Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, and Matt Olson. However, Martinez’s 7.1% walk rate was his lowest single-season rate since 2014, and his 31.1% K-rate is a career worst. But he still finished off the year with a quality .369 wOBA, and 135 wRC+.

Martinez’s raw power was off the charts. Despite being in his age-35 campaign, his 93.4 MPH exit velocity was a career-best by nearly a half MPH. But his 54.8% hard-hit rate was a career-high by over 2% (2.5% to be exact), and his 17% barrel rate trailed only his ‘18 season when he won two Silver Sluggers and finished 4th in MVP voting. All ranked in the 98th percentile of batters. Martinez’s xwOBA of .370 paints nearly the same picture as his wOBA put up last year.

The DH is going to be heading into his age-36 campaign. MLBTR has him pinned on a two-year deal at $40 million in total ($20 million each season). The Athletic is significantly more conservative with their prediction. Not only do they have him signing for just one year, but only making $12 million. On an annual basis, I see him making something in the middle, like $16 million.