Edgar Martinez – 21.2 fWAR
I don’t know what to do about Edgar Martinez here. I think fans have either forgotten, or just plain don’t know, that Edgar played third base for quite a while, and he was actually pretty decent at it. Take a look at how Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference treated him. On Fangraphs, he had a -2, -1.9, 4.3, 14.0, 7.1, -8.3, -4.5, 5.1 on DEF from 1987-94. To compare, he was a 2.1 dWAR on BR. So he was actually adding value during the time that he was playing in the field.
Now, let’s look at how many games he actually played during that time. Out of a possible 612 games, he played 531 of them at third base, or 86.8%. So yes, for the first eight seasons of Edgar’s career, he was legitimately a third baseman. This brings up a couple of questions for my all-time lists. Should we split Edgar up, and put some of him at DH and some at 3B? Should I just leave him at DH since most think of him, rightfully so, as the greatest DH of all time?
Imagine doing this for Albert Pujols. He was an outfielder and a third baseman for his first three seasons (21.1 fWAR). What about Gary Carter, A-Rod, Jason Giambi, or Craig Biggio, amongst others? Shoot, you could make the argument that Randy Johnson is the Mariners greatest reliever ever since he did it (it would be an awful argument, but he did pitch in relief for a while).
I think I’m just going to acknowledge it this way. Edgar was incredible, we all know that. He moved to DH and inserted himself firmly as one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Maybe he would’ve been able to continue to do so at third. Maybe not. He did manage 21.2 fWAR while at third, including three straight seasons from 1990-92 of 5.5 fWAR or better, and every indication is he would’ve passed the eventual number one on the list.
I’m going to leave him out as a “special entrant”, as we all think of him as a DH. Edgar is the greatest player to ever play third for the Mariners, but he isn’t their greatest third baseman, and I think that is an important distinction to make. Let’s move on to the guys that we think of as third baseman, and see who made the top 5.