Tag:MLB rumors
Posted on: November 23, 2010 5:34 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2010 11:03 am

Tigers make smart first strike in market

Victor Martinez may not instantly catapult the Detroit Tigers onto the AL Central throne, and sometimes when he's behind the plate, the basepaths do tend to become like the autobahn for opposing runners.

That said, if the report out of Venezuela is true and Martinez is about to re-join his old division, only this time a couple of hundred miles north of Cleveland up in Detroit, the Tigers already are off to a roaring start this winter.

The Tigers had no public comment Tuesday on the report -- from ESPNdeportes' Ignacio Serrano -- of Martinez being poised to sign a four-year, $50 million deal, pending a physical exam. But neither did they shoot it down.

The key here is this: The Tigers mostly would deploy Martinez as their designated hitter (Alex Avila is projected as the everyday catcher). And together with Miguel Cabrera, who finished second in the AL MVP voting announced Tuesday, Detroit would have a couple of serious bruisers in the middle of the lineup.

For the Red Sox in 2010, Martinez batted .302 with a .351 on-base percentage, a .493 slugging percentage, 20 homers and 79 RBIs. In their emphasis on run prevention, Martinez never was going to carry value beyond a certain point behind the plate for the Red Sox. Plus, he'll be 32 next opening day.

In Detroit, you can argue that $12.5 million for a designated hitter, at those offensive numbers, is a pretty steep price to pay.

You also can argue that in a weak free agent market with few difference-makers available, the Tigers made a savvy quick, preventative first-strike. Teams with money to spend this winter out-supply the free agent market. Some will be left standing with nothing at the end.

Of the most desireable free agent position players available -- a list that also includes Adam Dunn, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth -- Martinez by far is the best fit in Detroit. Not only can he DH and catch, he also can play first base if Cabrera needs a day off or is injured. And, he's a switch-hitter, giving manager Jim Leyland more versatility in his lineup.

Even while trading Curtis Granderson a year ago as general manager Dave Dombrowski re-arranged the furniture, the Tigers were eagerly looking ahead to the winter of 2010-2011 as a time when they'd have money to spend. Now, they've already signed set-up man Joaquin Benoit from Tampa Bay and, apparently, agreed to terms with Martinez.

The Tigers know Martinez well from some six seasons of competing against him in the AL Central. He knows the division well. It's a move that makes sense for both sides.


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