Mets’ J.D. Martinez addition could make them dangerous enough for playoffs

PORT ST. LUCIE — The Mets are serious about this playoff thing, it turns out.

J.D. Martinez, a hitting “savant” (Pete Alonso’s word for him), officially is a Met, making the team from Queens just dangerous enough.

Martinez is exactly the man they needed, which is why owner Steve Cohen — who lost serious money last year, an estimated $200 million to $250 million not counting possible tax breaks — was willing to shell out big bucks. To bring in a great DH, the tab was not small, about $21M (about $10M in net present value on Martinez’s $12M deal with deferrals, plus $11M in tax).

Promising kid slugger Mark Vientos is putting together a nice spring, but Martinez, coincidentally his frequent Florida winter workout partner, has huge credentials. There’s the career 133 OPS+, the fifth highest home run percentage with 400-plus plate appearances in 2023 (behind Aaron Judge, Matt Olson, Shohei Ohtani and Alonso) and the six All-Star games, including last year when he batted cleanup for the National League.

He’s the right guy to protect Alonso in a lineup that suddenly looks pretty stacked. Brandon Nimmo will lead off, followed by 30-30 man Francisco Lindor, Alonso, Martinez and Jeff McNeil. Alonso advocated for the Mets to sign Martinez but not because he was seeking lineup protection for himself.

J.D. Martinez signed a one-year deal with the Mets earlier this week, adding to their lineup. Screengrab via X/@SNY_Mets

“He’s not just going to impact me,” Alonso said, “he’s going to impact everyone.”

Martinez is the kind of guy who’ll share his knowledge with the kids, and Saturday he provided same sage words for Vientos — a workout partner of his at his alma mater Nova Southeastern in Davie, Fla., outside Fort Lauderdale. Vientos is the first guy impacted, as he’s sure to lose significant playing time. Martinez told him there will always be opportunities for talented guys.

It was just 10 years ago when Martinez was released in spring training by the Astros, and he smiled when he recalled that Mets baseball president David Stearns was an Astros executive back then. They had a joke about it, and he said Stearns admitted to him it was a “mistake.” (I also happened to be there that day, and I recall Martinez understandably looked crushed, not to mention shocked.)

J.D. Martinez, pictured last year with the Dodgers, has made six All-Star Games across his MLB career. Getty Images

It turned out to be a blessing for Martinez, who created a terrific career after that rare Astros error. He only lost his spot with the Dodgers when they signed the all-time great Ohtani (who’s been in the news a bit lately).

The Mets aren’t the Dodgers, or certainly the Braves or Phillies. But this signing could put them over the playoff line. Martinez was a 2-WAR player last year playing less than 70 percent of games, and two wins may be all it takes in what’s now looks like a contentious wild-card fight.

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Like the Mets, Martinez knows numbers, which is why he didn’t sign with the Giants, who offered about $15M.

“It’s not the best hitter-friendly park for me,” he said. “If I go there and hit .260 with 20 [homers], people are going to say I’m old and washed up.”

Imagine that, Citi Field as hitter-friendly?

Anyway, the Mets are so into analytics now they may as well be called the New York Metrics. And I’m sure in a playoff system where 40 percent of the teams make it, the Mets must know they have a shot. Though the rotation sans Kodai Senga looks somewhere between ordinary and run of the mill, they may have just enough firepower to slip in.

David Stearns’ latest Mets signing could help them get over the playoff line. Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Stearns told The Post in February that the Mets are a “playoff-caliber” team, and you know he didn’t just guess. You have to know the Harvard man had numbers to back it up.

You may notice, too, Stearns didn’t repeat that postseason claim after the ace Senga went out with an injury. Or after the Giants signed Matt Chapman, then signed Blake Snell. Or after the Padres acquired Dylan Cease.

That could be because Stearns keeps a relatively low profile and hasn’t said much of anything. But it might also be because the numbers no longer were favoring the Mets.

Of course, it wasn’t going to be easy for the Mets to add star players in a year expected to be a transition season. They were already well into the fourth-tier, the so-called “Steve Cohen” tax bracket.

They get no credit for having a slightly above-average team while having a well-above-average payroll. But they do get credit for the effort, which remains enormous.

Let’s face it, $21M (tax included) isn’t chump change for a DH, and especially a DH who’s going to have to spend a few days fine-tuning his swing in the minors. They could have rolled the dice with Vientos, who’s powerful but somewhat more strikeout prone. Vientos is leading the Mets in homers this spring with five (Disclaimer: Spring training stats aren’t completely worthless, but they are the closest thing to worthless there is).

The Mets are still trying, maybe not as much as they’ll be trying next winter, which has always been their grand plan. But they are definitely giving the playoffs a solid chance.

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