The Detroit Tigers have officially announced that Victor Martinez has re-signed with the team for $68 million over four years, ending his free agent status quickly. Martinez will make $14 million in 2015 and $18 million annually over the following three years.
Martinez has a parcel no-trade clause in the contract, meaning he can list up to ten teams to which he does not want to be traded. He will also have the right to block any trade as a 10-year veteran after the 2015 season because he will have been with the Tigers for a minimum of five years.
The Tigers are keeping the power-hitting designated hitter in the middle of their lineup after he finished second in the AL MVP race this past season. The 35-year-old and five-time All-Star didn't seem likely to go anywhere else after hitting .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs.
"I'm just real excited for this great opportunity to get my dream complete, which is winning a World Series," Martinez told ESPN. "I have never been on a team like this."
Grade for Martinez: B+
Martinez is hungry for a ring and maybe that is why he took less in 2015 and beyond than Miguel Cabrera ($22 million) and Justin Verlander ($28 million). Martinez was one of the top free agents along with Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton and Detroit teammate Max Scherzer. Stanton signed the largest contract in baseball history, making one wonder what Martinez could have gotten on the open market if he tested the waters extensively (despite the quick agreement, the Mariners were reportedly in advanced talks with his representatives).
Although Joe Mauer was younger at the time, you could compare Martinez to the Minnesota catcher's $184 million deal that stemmed from similar MVP numbers. You might think that Martinez left significant money on the table, but Mauer was 27 when he signed that eight-year deal with the Twins. Martinez will turn 35 next month.
Martinez has never played a full season, but part of that is because of the wear and tear he endured as a catcher. He has, however, missed games due to injury in each season with the Tigers, including the entire 2012 season because of a knee injury. Martinez has played in 145 or more games in the last two seasons though. He is either at his peak or could be in his decline.
No matter how you slice it, the Venezuelan got paid. Maybe not as much as he should have but he wanted to stay with a contender. That may leave some room for the Tigers to re-sign Scherzer or someone else to help get Detroit its first World Series title since 1984.
Grade for the Tigers: A-
The only reason the Tigers get an A- instead of an A is because Martinez could be at the peak of his career. However, he has produced every year with Detroit and hasn't hit below .300 since 2009 when he only played 99 games for Cleveland. He has also hit over ten home runs and had over 70 RBIs in every healthy season since 2009. He has an average of 40 or more walks and 30 or more doubles over that same span.
You could argue that the Tigers deserve an A+ for the deal as long as Martinez stays healthy and puts up anything close to the numbers he has since joining the team in 2011, but at $15-18 million it's a low-risk gamble when you look at Mauer and even Andre Ethier's contract.
The Tigers gave a lot of money to Cabrera and Verlander and they will need to throw a lot of money at Scherzer to keep him in Detroit. They are not going to re-sign Hunter even after he put up good numbers in both years (2013: .304 17 HR 84 RBI, 2014: .286 17 HR 83 RBI). The Tigers will have to find a replacement unless the want to give Steven Moya a chance (.276 with 35 HR 105 RBI in AA).
This contract could backfire if Martinez has reached his peak but as a designated hitter and proven hitter throughout his career, he should be the Big Papi of the Tigers.