Fernando Martinez was once considered one of the game’s top hitting prospects, but the Astros were able to pluck him off waivers in January after the Mets essentially gave up on him. Now he’s in line to get regular playing time in the major leagues.
Prior to tonight’s game, the Astros placed outfielder Travis Buck on the disabled list with an Achilles injury and recalled Martinez from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Martinez’s star has faded in recent years due to a chronic knee injury and poor production in the minor leagues, but it probably didn’t help that he was needlessly rushed through the Mets’ minor league system. While it feels like he’s been around forever, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 23 years old. Fortunately for the Astros, Martinez has actually been both healthy and productive this season, batting .319/.374/.532 with eight homers, 38 RBI and a .906 OPS through 51 games at the Triple-A level.
Astros manager Brad Mills told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that Martinez is not being called up to sit on the bench. Sure enough, he’s starting in right field and batting sixth tonight against the Reds. While Martinez may never deliver on the hype attached to him as a “teenage hitting machine,” he’s a worthy gamble for the rebuilding Astros.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.