Chris Martin came to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline in 2019 to help a hurting bullpen and he certainly delivered.
There was not a lot of trade rumors surrounding him at the time, but I like to think Alex Anthopoulos knew exactly what he was doing when he made this deal.
He spent previous seasons with the Colorado Rockies, New York Yankees, and even a couple of years in a Japanese League before signing with the Texas Rangers in 2017.
He had a 3.08 ERA and 4.00 FIP in the first 38 innings he pitched for the Rangers before being traded to the Atlanta Braves for Kolby Allard in July.
Martin had a 4.08 ERA and a 1.63 FIP in 17.2 regular season innings with the Braves. All 8 of the earned runs he allowed, however, came in only 5 of the 20 games he appeared in.
I also can’t write this without mentioning the immaculate inning Martin threw for the Braves against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 11, one of eight in 2019 and one of 100 ever in MLB.
Martin played a key role at the end of the regular season in the bullpen, which at the beginning of 2019 was not at its best. He was a crucial part of controlling leads in close games and got strikeouts when needed often in higher leverage situations.
That was until he came out to pitch an inning in Game 1 of the NLDS and could not even throw a pitch because he had suffered an oblique injury during warm-ups.
I won’t speculate about what could have been if Martin had been able to continue in the postseason, but things very well could have been different.
At the beginning of this offseason, he signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Braves. Coming off an injury, he’s expected to play that key role again, but this time perhaps in earlier innings with the addition of Will Smith.
Steamer, ATC, and ZIPS 2020 projections for Martin have him pitching in around 50 games next season with a low to mid 3.00 ERA, a similar number to his 3.40 2019 total ERA. His FIP projections are slightly lower than his 3.25 total for 2019 as well.
With the closer competition likely between Smith and Melancon, I expect the Braves to use Martin as a setup guy in the 7th or 8th inning of ballgames.
With his 0.8 walk rate per nine innings and 10.5 strikeout rate per nine innings, which are also expected to remain similar in 2020, he should continue to keep games close and keep runners off the bases.
Obviously, you can’t always trust projections as they do not always account for improvements that can be made. Martin has improved each year in his career, so it’s possible that improvement can continue into the next season.
Overall, I believe that after a good rest this offseason to get healthy, Martin can go back to the shape he was in the last few months of the 2019 season, if not better shape. As long as he stays healthy, he will take on high leverage innings and set up for saves, just as he did last season.