Free agent Victor Martinez is thought to be at or near the top of the Detroit Tigers offseason priority list. Because of his ability to catch or play first base, the Tigers aren’t the only club that has interest in signing Martinez this winter.
Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports broke down the contenders for VMart’s services and opined that it would be in the switch-hitter’s best interest to sign sooner rather than later.
Once teams begin checking off their respective shopping lists, Martinez will lose part of his leverage. A big part of his appeal is that he fits into an American League lineup with a “2” or “3” or “DH” next to his name. As rosters fill up, that trait becomes a little less marketable.
As much as we Tigers fans would like to assume Dave Dombrowski is going to get his man, Morosi points out that several other clubs have strong cases to make for adding Martinez as well. While Morosi mentions several clubs, he goes into specifics with the Tigers and Mariners.
Seattle has a manager, Eric Wedge, who was the manager in Cleveland while VMart was catching there. The Mariners had a historically poor offense last year and could theoretically offer Martinez full-time catching duties, at least for the first year while prospect Adam Moore develops. The also have a hole at first base and DH, so there would be no shortage of at bats.
The case for the Tigers is largely the same, but Dombrowski has been adamant that Alex Avila will get the bulk of the starts behind the plate. Martinez would catch against left handed pitching, but DH on days when a right hander takes the hill to oppose the Tigers. With Miguel Cabrera locked in at first base, starts for Martinez there would be few and far between.
Another big reason that the Tigers are thought to be the front-runners to land Martinez is the strong Venezuelan presence in the Detroit clubhouse. Even if Magglio Ordonez signs elsewhere, Detroit still features Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, and Armando Galarraga; all native Venezuelans. The Tigers have also re-signed Jhonny Peralta, another of Martinez’s former Indians teammates.
It may boil down to how comfortable Martinez is with the idea of DH-ing. Morosi points out that Martinez doesn’t have strong numbers while serving as the designated hitter. If the value of the offers are similar, and both Detroit and Seattle can afford to make aggressive offers, it could be that a promise of catching time may be what sways his decision.
What if Martinez were to hold firm of his desire to be a regular catcher? Would Dombrowski bend of his stance of giving at bats to Avila next year if it was a deal breaker with Martinez? If last year was any indication, the answer is yes. Ryan Raburn was all but given an everyday role after his strong 2009 campaign until Detroit snagged Johnny Damon just before Spring Training opened. I could see the Tigers doing the same with Avila if it means getting Martinez to sign.
In other news, minor league reliever Casey Fien was signed to a minor league contract by the Houston Astros, according to a note passed along by MLBTR. Fien pitched in Detroit’s bullpen in each of the past two years, but without much success.
Let’s hope that Fien finds more success in this exit from the Tigers organization than he did last time around. Fien was designated for assignment by the Tigers during Spring Training in 2010, only to be DFA’d by Boston and then Toronto before re-joining the Tigers last season.