For weeks, one of the worst-kept secrets in baseball is that the Detroit Tigers were pursuing Victor Martinez for the left-handed power bat (and catching help) desperately needed in their lineup. The secret is now officially out.
Reports out of Venezuela have the Tigers and Martinez reaching agreement on a four-year contract worth $50 million. Multiple outlets have since confirmed the reports, including Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. Pending a physical, the deal could be officially announced on Friday or Saturday.
According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Detroit’s offer surpassed others from the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox. The Orioles offered Martinez a four-year, $48 million contract, while the White Sox put a three-year, $48 million offer on the table.
The White Sox’s bid offered more money per season, but the fourth year on a contract was apparently important to Martinez. That was also more than the Boston Red Sox were willing to offer to re-sign Martinez.
(UPDATE: WEEI.com reports that Boston did make a four-year offer, but for $42 million.)
Last season with Boston, Martinez batted .302/.351/.493 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs. Where exactly he fits into the Tigers’ lineup now isn’t quite clear, but he’ll presumably bat behind Miguel Cabrera, providing Detroit’s biggest bat with some switch-hitting protection.
And though Martinez could be the Tigers’ primary catcher, he is more likely to be the designated hitter against right-handed pitching (with Alex Avila playing behind the plate). Against lefties, he’ll probably be the starting catcher. He also gives Jim Leyland a chance to give Cabrera an occasional rest in the field by filling in at first base, when needed.
Martinez batted fifth in 25 games with the Red Sox last season. But he hit third in 88 games. Detroit could use a No. 3 batter, as well, but it seems more likely that he was signed to prevent opposing teams from pitching around Cabrera.
And as Bless You Boys points out, the Tigers aren’t done with their offseason shopping. They need a corner outfielder, and whomever that is will probably end up in that No. 3 spot ahead of Cabrera. Though they didn’t offer arbitration to Magglio Ordonez, Detroit still wants to bring him back and it’s easy to see where he’d fit in right now.
By signing Martinez, who was a Type A free agent, the Tigers will have to give up their first-round draft pick (the No. 19 selection) to the Red Sox. That is, unless Detroit also signed Jayson Werth (another Type A free agent), in which case Boston would receive Detroit's second-rounder. But the Tigers may have made their biggest purchase already.