Detroit Tigers News

Victor Martinez Can’t Be a DH Only

msnyder
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Last week, after the signing became official, Dave Dombrowski had this to say about how the team will use Victor Martinez (as quoted on MLive.com):

"We expect Victor to be in our lineup on a daily basis, serving primarily as our club’s designated hitter and catching two to three times a week. He also has the ability to fill in at first base, and his versatility allows us to keep a premier bat in our lineup every day."

The feeling I get from this statement is that Martinez will probably be catching about one-third of the time. That’s all well and good so long as that’s what happens, because the deal they signed him to looks worse and worse the more time he sees at DH.

The Tigers will pay Martinez $50 million over four year, an average of $12.5 million per year. The target “break even” value for this salary is roughly 2.75 WAR per season. To reach this mark, he’ll need to be catching nearly once every three days.

I know his defense is below average, we’ve discussed this, but the fact that you can fill in a bat this good at a usually weak hitting spot overcomes that deficiency. A lot. How much? If you took his career offensive and defensive numbers at catcher, and applied those to a 640 PA season, he would be expected to accrue roughly 4.8 WAR. That’s a lot. If you applied those same hitting abilities to the DH position, you’d expect him to only come up with about 2.4 WAR.

So just playing catcher, even at a below average level, still would boost his value by about 2.4 wins. The Tigers need to capture as many of those wins as possible to make the most out of this deal.

Don’t get me wrong, 2.4 WAR is nothing to shake a stick at, but it’s certainly not worth $50 million over four years. Especially not for a guy who is getting a bit long in the tooth, and could be expected to see his bat slow down in the coming years. And that’s another key. I don’t think we can expect Martinez to continue hitting at his career .360 wOBA clip for the duration of this deal, so the Tigers would probably like to squeeze as much value out of the front of this contract as they can.

The only way to get good value out of the $50 million, they’ll need Martinez to catch, not just DH, and one-third of the games seems to be the minimum break even point. Here’s to hoping they don’t fall into the habit of using him as the DH too often.

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