The Detroit Tigers have added their first new major leaguer, coming to terms with veteran outfielder Leonys Martin on a one year deal.
The Detroit Tigers came into the offseason with a lot of holes to fill, particularly in their outfield.
The Tigers filled one of those holes on Tuesday, signing former Cubs outfielder Leonys Martin to a one-year, $1.75MM contract. The contract comes with incentives that could bring the total value to $2.85MM. The signing was first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
Martin will turn 30 in March. While he is old for a rebuilding team, he is left-handed hitting, fleet-footed center fielder who has posted strong defensive numbers throughout his career.
Additionally, Martin has less than five years of major league service time. That means he is arbitration-eligible through the 2019 season. He can either be a part of the Tigers rebuild for the next few season, or is potential trade bait as a cost-controlled fourth outfielder for a contender.
Martin joins a Tigers outfield that has Mikie Mahtook, Jacoby Jones and Nicholas Castellanos sitting atop the depth chart.
Castellanos is penciled in as the starting right fielder, assuming the Tigers don’t trade him.
Jones hit .170 in 141 at-bats with the Tigers last season, striking out 42.2% of the time. He profiles more as a fourth outfielder or a starter at Triple-A while he works to correct his strikeout issues.
Mahtook had a breakout season at the plate last year. In 348 at-bats he hit 12 home runs, stole six bases and posted a 107 wRC+. He’s a poor defender in center field however, posting a -2.6 UZR.
Martin could start in center field next season, pushing Mahtook over to left where he is a stronger defender (0.7 UZR). If the Tigers find another left fielder, Martin and Mahtook would form a strong platoon in center field.
Martin’s excellent defense and base running skills will earn him plenty of playing time in the Motor City, despite his struggles at the plate the last few years.
Martin hit .172 with a 35 wRC+ in 128 at-bats split between the Mariners and Cubs in 2017. He was better in 2016, playing a full season with the Mariners and hitting .247. He displayed power and speed, hitting 15 home runs and stealing 24 bases.
Martin will provide strong defense up the middle and is a threat to steal 20 bases across a full season. If he can get back to being even average at the plate he will be a tremendous bargain. Even if he struggles to hit, his defensive value fills a need for the Tigers as they look to put together a roster for the 2018 season.