Is Victor Martinez a Fit in Detroit?

Last week, on Boston radio station WEEI, Peter Gammons stopped by and made quite the bold statement:

I don’t expect Victor Martinez to come back, I think Detroit is going to give him four or five years. And I don’t think anybody else is going to give him four or five years to be a catcher.

Bringing in Martinez would certainly help the Tigers at catcher in 2011. In 2010 their catchers, Gerald Laird and Alex Avila, combined to produce a .277 wOBA, which ranked 25th in the majors. Martinez, despite a slow start and a mid-season thumb injury, produced a .364 wOBA, which ranked fourth among MLB catchers with at least 400 PA.

The Tigers also certainly have the payroll to add Martinez. After shedding a number of contracts the have just $61 million on the 2011 payroll, plus a number of arbitration and pre-arbitration players. They should have plenty of room to maneuver, even if they lower payroll from the $134 million they paid in 2010. They’ll save money on a third baseman by re-signing Brandon Inge, so they can afford to put their payroll to work elsewhere. Since they went the defensive route at third, perhaps they will choose to go offense heavy at catcher.

Martinez, for his part, does have issues behind the plate. Of the 12 MLB catchers who qualified for the batting title, Martinez ranked lat in caught stealing percentage, at 21.4 percent. His career caught stealing rate is just 24 percent. Our defensive metrics also rate him poorly. DRS has him at two runs below average, while the fan scouting reports are a bit more harsh, pegging him at eight runs below average. Martinez will turn 32 in December, so it’s unrealistic to expect much of an improvement. In other words, while Gammons doesn’t think that anybody else is going to give Martinez four to five years to be a catcher, it doesn’t appear that the Tigers will, either. He’ll have to play elsewhere, too.

The question, of course, is of where. In the past he has taken reps at first base, but Miguel Cabrera will fill that spot now and in the future. That relegates Martinez to DH duties while he’s not catching — perhaps he’ll play some first while Cabrera DHs, but that probably wouldn’t be a frequent occurrence. The better chance is that he DHs when Alex Avila catches, and that Carlos Guillen, who turned 35 at season’s end, will take reps at DH when Martinez catches. Then, when Guillen’s contract expires after the 2011 season, Martinez can move into the DH role more often, perhaps acting as Avila’s backup as well.

That arrangement does put some pressure on Avila, the team’s fifth round draft pick in 2008. The Tigers certainly do like him; they previously drafted him in the 34th round of the 2005 draft. After getting a cup of coffee in 2009, Avila ranked No. 6 on Baseball America’s Tigers prospects list and third on Marc Hulet’s list. Both Hulet and BA agree that Avila will have to improve against LHP if he’s going to succeed in the majors. He didn’t fare well in that department last year, producing a .244 wOBA against lefties. With Martinez, who produced a .492 wOBA against lefties in 2010 and has a .370 career wOBA against them, there might be a platoon temptation. That will certainly help the 2011 Tigers, but Avila needs to face lefties in order to improve. That could create a tough balancing act for Jim Leyland.

Given the holes in the Tigers roster, their need for offense at catcher, and their available payroll, it does appear that Martinez fits well. The only drawback is that they can’t get him reps at first base, since they have a perennial MVP candidate there. But they can easily get Martinez 600 at-bats between catcher and DH. It would not surprise me one bit to see Gammons end up correct on this one. The pairing makes plenty of sense for both parties.

It also makes sense for the White Sox, a topic we’ll explore next week.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 10 months ago

Martinez is a fit anywhere. Still one of the game’s best hitters. Highly respected in any clubhouse.

Horace
Guest
Horace
5 years 10 months ago

You consistently say ridiculous things. “Still one of the games best hitters”. He is one of the best hitting cathers in the game. Not one of the best hitters. Never has been, never will be. Couple that with his tremendously poor defense and you have a player that only makes sense to a team in desperate need of a catcher, like the Tigers. Certainly not a fit anywhere.

Michael
Guest
Michael
5 years 10 months ago

I agree with you that he’s not anywhere close to one of the best hitters in baseball, but he’s a valuable catcher. The offensive production he produces from the position is only matched by a couple players.

I wouldn’t want to give him a 4 year deal, but there’s a good chance he’s well worth his salary over the next two seasons.

this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 10 months ago

.844 OPS, only 52 ks to 40 walks, 20+ HR Guy in a full season’s at bat.

He’s one of the top pure hitters in the game. Fickle fans like you count maybe 20 hitters as the “top hitters”, but when you are dealing with a whole league full of teams with 25 man rosters, a guy like this qualifies as one of the top hitters.

Not all .844 OPSs are the same. A switch hitting guy who Ks only 52 times, while maintaining 20+ HRs is a different type of hitter than the .850 OPS, 3 outcome guy (HR, K, walk).

You saber morons like to oversimplify the game, and wonder why your models are incorrect so often. Watch a fucking game once in a while. You might actually learn something about the actual sport.

this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 10 months ago

As for your use of “ridiculous”….it only seems ridiculous to your simple, 1 dimensional mind. You’re so stupid, the powers that be have managed to limit your scope to the extent that they can use your own brain against you.

You are the victim of “your own” thoughts.

Danmay
Guest
Danmay
5 years 10 months ago

this guy – With all due respect for your time and the thought that goes into your comments at Fangraphs I have to believe that you come to this site for one of two general reasons: either you see Fangraphs as a place to express your baseball opinions and analysis, or you love getting a rise out of people. If it’s the former, then you are welcome to talk baseball here (at least by me you are), but I suggest laying off of “saber morons” if you don’t want everyone that recognizes your name to immediately ignore your comments. If it’s the latter, then I would say you are very successful at what you do, I just hope you spread it around to other sites too. If you don’t fall into either category, then please feel free to explain because I’m curious.

this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 10 months ago

rather than explain, i’ll just go away.

Anon
Guest
Anon
5 years 10 months ago

Good riddance.

Larry Smith Jr.
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

In addition to being poor at throwing out runners, the Tigers pitchers are generally poor at holding runners (other than Verlander, who may possess the best RHP pickoff move in the MLB) and the Tigers don’t have many LHP either at the moment. This isn’t to say Martinez wouldn’t work here, just another variable to throw into the mix.

Rich
Guest
Rich
5 years 10 months ago

Galarraga is really good at holding runners as well, though I’m not sure what place he may or may not hold in the Tigers future rotation.

Steve
Guest
Steve
5 years 10 months ago

No one is giving Martinez a 5 year deal

Cloud Computer
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Cloud Computer
5 years 6 months ago

I was right!

exxrox
Member
exxrox
5 years 10 months ago

I get the feeling that VMart’s bat doesn’t exactly play as well at 1B or DH than at C (well obviously)…combined with the fact that he is passable at best as a catcher, and likely won’t even be that in 2 years, I don’t see him getting as long of a contract as he wants.

Or if he does, it’s a dumb and/or nearsighted move.

Larry Smith Jr.
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

I think his bat would play fine at DH, especially for a Tigers team that has gotten comically bad performance out of DH in the last two seasons. Even if you figure in a DH penalty, it would be a huge upgrade for Detroit.

Tigers DH 2009: 245/325/379, 17 HR
Tigers DH 2010: 259/341/373, 8 HR

Ron
Guest
Ron
5 years 10 months ago

Give him a 3 year with a club option for a 4th year. He needs to understand his numbers as a catcher, how old he will be during the contract and how that affects his health going forward. Also the Tigers could give a vesting option like they did with Magglio for VM’s 4th year. 5 years?? NO, only gammons would come up with that brain fart.

JonnyBS
Guest
JonnyBS
5 years 10 months ago

If an idiot GM decides to give him a 5 years contract, why should he turns it down. If anything, the GMs are the ones who need to understand NOT to give him a 4-5 years contract.

Telo
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Telo
5 years 10 months ago

No matter where he goes, if he gets a 4-5 year deal, he’s likely not going to be worth his salary in year 4 or 5.

this guy
Guest
this guy
5 years 10 months ago

Do you ever get tired of reading/writing the same thing over and over again?

Do you really think you know better than those that manage multi-billion dollar franchises that have existed for roughly a century? If not, did you ever think to question, “They’ve been doing this for a long time, yet they constantly seem to manage the business in such a way that seems illogical to me. Perhaps my logic is flawed.”

If you really want to learn something, first you need to accept that you don’t know it all. Based on the general feedback on this site, I’d venture to say that you don’t know ANYTHING.

JR
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JR
5 years 10 months ago

He’s gonna be as valuable as a 37-year old DH as he will be as a 32-year old switch hitting catcher?

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank
5 years 10 months ago

i love you

Brian
Guest
Brian
5 years 10 months ago

Wow. I never knew Jim Hendry was so angry.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
5 years 10 months ago

“If you really want to learn something, first you need to accept that you don’t know it all. ”

Hello, Pot. Meet Kettle.

Anon
Guest
Anon
5 years 10 months ago

You’re right. Omar Minaya must have seen something the rest of the world didn’t when he gave Oliver Perez $36 million over 3 years.

Jack Str
Guest
Jack Str
5 years 10 months ago

Priceless!

Yes, yes, they’ve been congresspeople and senators for a long time. They MUST know more about economics than you do!

They’ve been in business as brokerage houses for a long time. They MUST be more competent at managing money than you are!

And so on. Anyway, Martinez may be only just passable at catcher, but his “just passable” is dramatically better than most when combined with his hitting. I can easily see a GM stretching a little to give him 3 years with a vesting option, and the deal working out well for both sides.

Table
Guest
Table
5 years 10 months ago

He would be joining fellow Venezuelans Cabrera, Guillen, and Ordonez. Seems like a fit.

Sean
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Sean
5 years 10 months ago

Good call Table. I was surprised this article didn’t once mention his Venezuelan heritage.

larry
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larry
5 years 10 months ago

Victor Martinez is a good DH,part time catcher,part time 1st baseman. If he goes to the national leg,he might be better off playing primarily 1st. He can prolong his career if he’s able to catch less. Good bat to have in the lineup,being a switch hitter. I’m sure if he stays in the AMERICAN LEAGUE, he could get a two or three year deal,but it has to be at 1st or DH.

larry
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larry
5 years 10 months ago

I think he’d be a good fit in Seattle,Oakland,Baltimore,or Anaheim.

David G
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David G
5 years 10 months ago

Not a chance he goes to Seattle. Too old.

guest
Guest
guest
5 years 10 months ago

I’d kind of like to see Alex Avila have another year (well, a full year) at catcher for the Tigers. Also, I think that Jayson Werth is undervalued; I think that he’s get a contract less than what he’s really worth. Maybe the Tigers can use him in LF/RF with Brennan Boesch. Boesch strikes me, both statistically and subjectively, as about a league average player in his prime. That’s valuable since he’s cheap, but he’s not Babe Ruth like a lot of people were saying in the first half of the year.

Colin
Guest
Colin
5 years 10 months ago

Ryan Raburn is the starter in at least one corner OF spot unless they sign two corner OF’s.

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 10 months ago

V-Mart SB rate year was deceiving since it was most apparent in April when Red Sox pitchers/coaches made virtually no effort to control the running game and his CS% hovered around 10% (as was Variteks). Once improvement was made in this area by the coaching/pitching staff, V-Marts CS% increased to 26%. Also, the running game is more efficient in the AL east with the Yankees and Rays, so his SB% should increase with Detroit. The Royals and White Sox run but they get caught a lot.

Also, Cabrera started only 148 games at 1B. V-Mart can take those 14 games, and another 25 at DH and play 120 games at C.

I don’t see V-Mart as getting an AAV more than 12-14 million, but he will want 4-5 years, so even when he can’t catch well enough near the end of the deal, and they don’t need a DH or 1Bman, he can still be traded to a team in need of a 1Bman if they eat some salary. He won’t make enough to have an unmovable contract, especially if salaries spike again in the next few years..

Catchers who can hit are a rare commodity, and V-mart will be a significant upgrade offensively at catcher for the next 2-3 years when he will more than earn his salary, possibly enough to compensate for the tail end of any deal. More years, less AAV. Fewer years, more AAV.

Chris_from_Bothell
Guest
Chris_from_Bothell
5 years 10 months ago

Mariners, please. He can mentor Adam Moore, be the day-game-after-night-game catcher, and primarily DH.

Steve
Guest
Steve
5 years 10 months ago

The Mariners, because they invented defensive evaluation, would never sign such a defensively challenged player.

Colin
Guest
Colin
5 years 10 months ago

Without reading the article to this I can answer the question as: No.

Also, everybody should have stopped listening to Peter Gammons when he tried to convince people that he had heard the Tigers would be dumping Cabrera to the Red Sox. I don’t think some Red Sox fan from off the street is a credible source Peter.

B N
Guest
B N
5 years 10 months ago

Regrettably, I do have to say that Gammons does seem to have gone downhill. As a Red Sox fan, at one point he seemed to have some occasional insider info and useful analysis, but I feel like it’s degenerated into random conjecture and homerism for a while now.

B N
Guest
B N
5 years 10 months ago

Though the Tigers are TOTALLY dumping Cabrera to the Red Sox. Because… something something. There.

Roger A
Guest
Roger A
5 years 10 months ago

Glad to see the Tigers have a ton of money coming off the books. V-Mart would be a good fit but don’t go crazy with the deal. Carl Crawford(looks like Anaheim is the favorite) or Jayson Werth would obivously be a better bet. If they are looking for more power and not much of a drop off in defense Werth should be who they target.

Wonder where the Donkey Winds up? Either side of Chicago?

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