Tigers to Target Victor Martinez

The word around the interwebs these days is that the Detroit Tigers have every intention of making a strong push for soon-to-be free agent Victor Martinez. The latest to state the Tigers intentions was Denver Post baseball writer Troy Renck, who tweeted yesterday that the Tigers are “poised to make Martinez a rich man.”

As a rule, I try to stay away from idle speculation, but this one seems to have legs. Martinez would fill a couple of holes the Tigers have and they certainly could afford to offer him the money and years he will be seeking.

General manager Dave Dombrowski said earlier this month that they would be seeking a free agent, right-handed catcher to compliment Alex Avila, who figures to get the bulk of the time behind the plate. Martinez, who will be 32 when the season starts, is a switch-hitter, best known for his potent bat, but lackluster defensive abilities behind the plate.

In theory, by signing Martinez, the Tigers would have a catcher when facing a left handed pitcher, and a DH when facing a right hander, all rolled into one. The problem, as I see it, is that Martinez’s bat, while productive, sure looks a lot better behind the plate than as a DH.

Dombrowski has also stated that they will be in the market for at least one, potentially two impacts middle-of-the-order bats this winter. Martinez could fit the bill for one of them, but what about the other? Detroit is known to be open to the idea of retaining Magglio Ordonez, but his range isn’t very good in right field, and he’s not getting younger. Adam Dunn has been mentioned, but he is a DH-only player in the American league. If you have Martinez DH-ing, there’s no room for Dunn, and maybe no room for Maggs, either.

All of this brings me to wonder that if Martinez truly is the Tigers top target, would they then become bigger players in the chase for a Jayson Werth or a Carl Crawford? Unlike Dunn, and to a lesser extent Ordonez, both Werth and Crawford are highly capable defensive outfielders. I know were are talking about the possibility of them signing two of the top five or six free agents, but there should be room in the budget for two of these guys.

Additionally, signing Martinez might tempt the Tigers to carry an extra catcher on the roster, which, in my mind, would at least partially defeat the purpose. Jim Leyland has been reluctant to use his backup catcher as a pinch-hitter  in recent years, fearing that if his then only catcher gets hurt, someone without experience would have to finish the game. This probably wouldn’t be as big an issue as on days when he would DH, Martinez could shift behind the plate in the event of an injury to Avila. All that would mean is that the Tigers would end the game without the use of a designated hitter.

By all accounts, Martinez is a solid teammate and good clubhouse guy. He has a relationship with Jhonny Peralta from their days in Cleveland, and he knows the division. He has also remained a productive hitter over the past four years, averaging a .299/.365/.475/.840 line with 18 home runs and 84 RBI (those numbers include an injury-shortened 2008 season when Martinez played in just 73 games).

As I said, those numbers are tremendous for a catcher, but as a DH, they are probably just slightly above average. If Martinez is your DH, you will have a solid presence in the heart of the lineup, but you had better also pair him with a good outfielder this winter. If the Tigers do in fact sign Martinez, that will mean they will not be going after Dunn, and it could mean the same for Ordonez.

Now, if they are going after Werth as well? Then I am all for this plan.

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Tags: Adam Dunn Carl Crawford Detroit Tigers Idle Speculation Jayson Werth Victor Martinez

  • http://www.motorcitybengals.com Matt Snyder

    I’ve always found it silly that many managers are so afraid to DH the catcher. I mean, if one guy already has one foot on the DL then maybe you wouldn’t want to do it, but how often does the starting catcher get hurt and need to come out? You’ll be just fine in DH’ing him well over 95% of the time.

    The idea of him as primarily a DH doesn’t excite me. He’s a very good hitter, but I think we overrate him slightly because he hits so well from a position where good hitting is rare. DH and split time catching? Yes please.

    • Chris Hannum

      I agree, especially when Inge is available as an emergency catcher. All-in-all, if the Tigers are going after any bat VMart is the guy I would like to see them snag. As for his Type-A status, doesn’t that only count for the first Type-A guy you sign? (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Dunn has stated that he must play in the field. In Detroit, that means right field – a position he is so bad at that his bat is almost completely offset.

      • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

        If a team signs two Type A free agents then they forfeit their first and second round picks.

  • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

    I’m not thrilled with the idea of chasing Type A free agents. The Tigers organization just isn’t in a position to give away a first round draft pick.

    If Martinez would end up DH-ing half the time anyway just go after Adam Dunn as a full time DH. He may cost a few extra bucks but he is projected as a Type B free agent.

    Maybe it is just that I’m not in favor of bringing in Victor Martinez, but I find it odd that the story is continually perpetuated by a guy in Denver. I’m not saying he isn’t getting some information but whatever he is getting doesn’t appear to be widespread.

    • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

      To be fair, Zac, Troy Renck is widely known as a good source for inside information. I know he’s not with a national outlet, but he’s also not some no-name newcomer either.

      • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

        I don’t mean to belittle his work at all, I’m sure he is factually reporting what he has heard. I am just surprised that whatever word he is getting doesn’t seem to be getting around. Perhaps I have been somewhat ignorant to other reports, but it seems like every link between Martinez and the Tigers I have seen has been from Renck.

  • Bob

    Signing Martinez is a horrible idea. I read somewhere that he wants to be the # 1 catcher for whoever signs him, but his offensive prowess doesn’t offset his defensive deficiencies. The Tigers don’t need Martinez, they need a good backup to Avila. I wouldn’t give him the time of day, much less a multi-year contract.