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Victor Martinez Rumors
FEBRUARY 10: The news out of the surgery was positive, with Detroit announcing that Dr. James Andrews performed a successful medial menisectomy on Martinez’s left knee that will leave the star DH able to “resume full activity in 4-6 weeks.” GM Dave Dombrowski expressed that he expects Martinez to be ready to go at the start of the season.
The club had been advised that the timeline for recovery would not be known until after the procedure was started. With the time missed now expected to land on the lighter side, it would appear that the Tigers will not need to find a temporary replacement for Martinez.
FEBRUARY 5: The Tigers announced that Victor Martinez tore the medial meniscus in his left knee during his offseason workout program and will undergo surgery next Tuesday. The team did not give a timeline regarding his recovery, stating that they will provide further updates next week after Dr. James Andrews performs the operation.
While a meniscus tear isn’t as severe as the torn ACL that Martinez suffered three winters ago (thus facilitating the Prince Fielder signing in Detroit), the injury will likely sideline him for the entirety of Spring Training, and his status for Opening Day with the Tigers is certainly in doubt. However, because the injury is less severe than the ACL tear, a significant addition to replace Martinez seems unlikely.
The Tigers signed the 36-year-old Martinez to a four-year, $68MM contract shortly after free agency began. The switch-hitter was coming off arguably the best offensive season of his career, having batted .339/.409/.565 (168 OPS+) with a career-best 32 homers. His injury further clouds the 2015 outlook for a Tigers team that is banking on health rebounds from former MVPs Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, both of whom saw their production diminish in 2014 as they played through injuries (the latter more so than the former).
News broke earlier today that Victor Martinez will undergo knee surgery on Tuesday, and until the veteran slugger’s procedure is complete, the Tigers have no choice but to play the waiting game. “I don’t know what I need to fill [on the roster],” GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jason Beck). “We’re going to have to wait to do all of that until Tuesday.” If the best-case scenario of a four-to-six week absence is met, Detroit can rely on short-term fill-ins to take Martinez’s place. Mlive.com’s James Schmehl lists several internal options within the organization, and he also opines that free agents Dayan Viciedo and Chris Colabello could also fit as temporary replacements or bench depth.
Here’s some more from around the junior circuit…
- Wade Miley‘s three-year extension with the Red Sox has some positive luxury tax implications for the team, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. By locking Miley up now, he’ll likely cost Boston less against the tax than he would’ve had he gone year-to-year in arbitration. These savings could help the Sox get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold next winter or in 2017.
- In an interview on the MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show (hat tip to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger), Torii Hunter said he wasn’t yet sure if 2015 will be his last season. “I don’t know. Right now, I’m just taking it one year at a time,” Hunter said. The 18-year veteran reportedly turned down some two-year offers before signing a one-year deal with the Twins in December.
- Mariners president Kevin Mather and GM Jack Zduriencik both attended a private workout for Cuban players Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez, though Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times “wouldn’t overthink” why the two front office figures were present. As Divish notes, Mather and Zduriencik were already in the Dominican Republic for organizational meetings, so while it’s usually rare to see upper management at workouts, it makes sense that the two would check in on the workout during their visit.
- The Blue Jays‘ focus on developing young starting pitching is the backbone of Alex Anthopoulos’ plan to make the club into a consistent contender, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi writes. The Jays have built a very solid offensive core, but if the young arms fail to deliver, the team’s plans over the next few seasons become very uncertain.
- Astros owner Jim Crane likes his team’s offseason moves and tells MLB.com’s Richard Dean that GM Jeff Luhnow has more possible acquisitions in the works. “Jeff’s still working on a few — we’re looking for a couple more players [to see] if we can make a couple more key additions,” Crane said. “But we like the moves we’ve made, and I think the team’s going to be very exciting this year — a lot more competitive.”
5:10pm: Martinez will be paid $14MM in 2015 and then $18MM from 2016-18, tweets Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. He also receives a 10-team no-trade clause for the 2015 season, after which his full 10-and-5 rights kick in.
12:40pm: Victor Martinez was reportedly the Tigers’ top priority this offseason, and the team characteristically struck quickly, announcing Friday a new four-year deal that will reportedly guarantee the Octagon client $68MM to reprise his role as the club’s primary DH. The contract reportedly contains some no-trade protection as well.
Re-signing Martinez was said to be Detroit’s top priority this offseason, despite the potential loss of other key free agents Max Scherzer and Torii Hunter. The 35-year-old Martinez enjoyed perhaps the finest offensive season of his 12-year career in 2014, slashing .335/.409/.565 with a career-high 32 homers. He led the league in both on-base percentage and OPS. At the GM Meetings in Phoenix today, GM Dave Dombrowski told MLBTR’s Jeff Todd that it is hard to set a ceiling on Martinez’s value to the Tigers. Declining to discuss specifics, Dombrowski said that the club knows it will need to pay a steep price to retain the DH, but will push hard to do so and thereby maintain its dangerous 3-4-5 combination.
As Jeff highlighted earlier today, the Tigers already have $146MM in commitments to the 2015 roster when factoring in guaranteed contracts and projected arbitration salaries. Martinez will reportedly earn $17MM per season, bringing Detroit’s commitment to next year’s roster to a hefty $163MM — just $1MM shy of the team’s franchise record Opening Day payroll of $164MM, set this past season. At this point, it seems likely that they’ll exceed that mark, barring some trades to alleviate salary, as the club is reportedly interested in beefing up its bullpen as well and still has some potential question marks in the outfield.
Martinez, one of the most attractive bats on the free agent market, has also been connected to the Mariners, White Sox and Blue Jays at various points over the past month or so. Some questioned whether the Tigers had the capability to add yet another significant long-term contract to the books with the likes of Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and, to a lesser extent, Anibal Sanchez and Ian Kinsler bogging down the team’s payroll in future seasons. The four-year commitment to Martinez runs through the 2018 season — the same year in which Cabrera and Verlander are owed respective salaries of $30MM and $28MM. Detroit is also committed to paying $6MM of Prince Fielder‘s salary that season even though he, of course, is now with the Rangers.
From a roster standpoint, the long-term commitment to Martinez is significant, in that it prevents a roadblock to giving Cabrera any significant time at DH over the next four seasons. While Cabrera is again playing first base (and doing a fine job, per UZR and DRS) rather than struggling to get by at the hot corner, he’s also begun to show signs of age, playing through significant injuries in each of the past two seasons. Detroit will now have to hope that the aging MVP candidate’s body can hold up for four more seasons of full-time duty in the field (or close to it).
The Tigers made a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to Martinez, who naturally rejected in favor of testing the open market. Had he signed elsewhere, the Tigers would have netted a compensatory draft pick. However, he’ll instead return to the fold, perhaps for the remainder of his career, as he’s said he doesn’t want to play past 40, and this contract would run through his age-39 season. Martinez’s departure from the free agent market is good news for other bats such as Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera and Billy Butler, who now face less competition.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were getting close on a four-year deal (Twitter link). Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes noted that the contract was near $70MM in value (Spanish link), and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the agreement and final terms (All Twitter links). Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported news of the no-trade protection (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Rebuilding is no longer a word the White Sox want to be associated with, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “We sit here on the one hand realizing that we have the prime of Chris Sale‘s career ahead of us, the prime of Jose Abreu‘s career ahead of us and wanting to make sure we’re in a position to capitalize and win within that window,” Hahn said. “We want to win, we want to win again quickly and we want to win again repeatedly in the coming years. … We still have work to do to continue that process.” At the same time, Hahn emphasized today that the team has to avoid the “dangerous allure to wanting to make a splash,” as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports in the course of an interesting look at the team’s options.
Here’s the latest from the AL Central after a busy news day:
- The White Sox are currently focused on acquiring a right-handed starter, bullpen additions, and a left-handed hitter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. While the club has in the past looked into dealing for backstops such as Jason Castro of the Astros and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, that does not appear to be the priority at present, per Rosenthal. Nevertheless, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com indicates on Twitter that the team does have present interest in Castro.
- Hahn said today that Chicago is interested in multiple relief acquisitions, as MLB.com’s Phil Rogers reports. “We don’t feel the need to go out and get a so-called proven closer,” said Hahn. “We certainly want to have multiple upgrades, and if some of those upgrades give us viable back-end options, that’s great.”
- Word is that the Royals will meet with the representatives of lefty Brett Anderson this week, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. GM Dayton Moore declined to confirm or deny that or any other meetings. I picked Anderson to go to Kansas City in the MLBTR free agent prediction contest, and think he makes sense for a club that has some added cash to spend on an upside play.
- The Royals have told Raul Ibanez that they would be interested in employing him in a non-playing capacity, tweets McCullough. Ibanez, of course, is in the hunt for the Rays’ open managerial position, and perhaps it is still to early to rule out a return to an active roster as well.
- Victor Martinez is at the top of the Tigers‘ list of priorities, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com, as GM Dave Dombrowski made clear that the team will make every effort to re-sign the DH. The team is still interested in outgoing free agents Max Scherzer and Joba Chamberlain, per Dombrowski, but he said the club is sitting back while both assess their markets.
The Blue Jays are in on several top free agents as the offseason kicks off. They’ll meet with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent Gustavo Vasquez today, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Reps for Victor Martinez spoke to the Jays recently, and there’s reportedly a meeting on the books with Russell Martin‘s agent as well. Further details on Canada’s team…
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos preached flexibility yesterday. According to Davidi, Anthopoulos said, “We’re going to try to take the best player available, and we’re not locked into one thing, like we need a defender at first base, we need a pure DH. It depends on what becomes available to us.” Edwin Encarnacion can be deployed at first base or DH, while third base could be opened up by using Brett Lawrie at second.
- Martin, a Canada native, turned down the Blue Jays before the 2010 season because the Yankees offered more playing time behind the plate, according to Davidi. Davidi feels that of all the Blue Jays rumors, Martin may be the one with the most substance.
- The Jays are looking at Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar in center field next year, barring a trade.
- Infielder Munenori Kawasaki is leaning toward a return to Japan, but Davidi says he might be swayed by a Major League contract.
- The Jays called the Phillies about Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Antonio Bastardo, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.
A few notes on some free agents on a busy first day of the annual GM Meetings…
- Octagon agent Alan Nero and his team are ready to advance talks regarding clients Victor Martinez, Jason Hammel and Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. While we don’t typically see too many free agents come off the board this early in the offseason, it sounds as if Octagon is being aggressive.
- Corey Hart has received interest from several teams despite his down season in 2014, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The market is thin on power hitters and Hart, 32, was a 30-homer threat from 2010-12 before undergoing surgery on both knees and sitting out the 2013 campaign.
- Jason Grilli has had some interest from multiple clubs, but the bullpen-hungry Tigers aren’t among them, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets.
- Ichiro Suzuki has switched agents and is now represented by John Boggs, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Suzuki had previously been represented by Tony Attanasio.
- Also from Rosenthal, Alberto Callaspo has switched agents and is now represented by Praver Shapiro Sports Management. Callaspo had previously been represented by Eric Goldschmidt. For agency info on over 1,700 players, check out MLBTR’s oft-updated Agency Database.
Last Monday, 12 players received one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer were all on the receiving end of the offer. The deadline to accept or reject the offer is today at 4pm CT.
A quick primer for those who are unfamiliar: Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Type A/B designations for free agent draft pick compensation. The newer system, which is now in its third year, allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player that has spent the entire season with that organization (i.e. players traded midseason are ineligible). That offer is set at the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest-paid players. Should the player reject, a new team will be required to forfeit its top unprotected pick to sign that player (the top 11 picks of this year’s draft are protected). His former team then receives a comp pick at the end of the first round. To this point, none of the 22 players to receive a QO have accepted.
The expectation is that most of the players who received the QO, with the possible exception of Cuddyer, will reject. We’ll keep track of the players that reject the QO here…
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that no player has accepted this year’s qualifying offer.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that Martinez has rejected the qualifying offer (Twitter link).
- Robertson has turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).
- Cuddyer, of course, has essentially rejected his qualifying offer by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.
- Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers‘ QO, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweets. As perhaps the top position player on this year’s open market, the move comes as little surprise. Ramirez figures to seek a contract north of $100MM+ as a free agent.
- Santana will reject the Braves‘ qualifying offer and search for a multi-year deal on the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move was widely expected after Santana enjoyed a solid season with the Braves. As he showed last winter, even if the market doesn’t materialize for him in the form of a multi-year deal, a one-year offer at or near the value of a QO is still attainable, so there’s little downside in trying to cash in.
- Both Sandoval and Martin have reportedly rejected their QOs prior to today’s deadline. Sandoval rejected his in the middle of last week, while news of Martin rejecting came last night.
At least ten teams have reached out to express interest in Torii Hunter, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and the free agent’s most aggressive suitors are in the very familiar AL Central. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals, Twins, Tigers, Cubs, Giants, Rangers and Mariners have all shown some early interest in Hunter (Twitter links). Hunter’s preference is to remain in Detroit, he adds, but his fate may be tied to that of Victor Martinez, as the Tigers likely can’t re-sign both.
Though Hunter turns 40 next July, he still enjoyed a productive season at the plate in a fairly pitcher-friendly home environment, hitting .286/.319/.446 with 17 homers in 586 plate appearances. His defensive game, however, appears to have slipped as Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at -18 runs and Ultimate Zone Rating agreed (-18.3).
Given his age, I’d think Hunter’s priority would be signing with a team he expects to contend in 2015 rather than maxing out his contract or perhaps making a sentimental return to his former Minneapolis stomping grounds.
Earlier this morning, reports indicated that the Mariners are interested in, if not prioritizing Victor Martinez (as well as Hanley Ramirez), which meshes with previous reports that the team will likely show interest. As one of the top free agents on the market, Martinez will likely find his name swirling about the rumor mill, and we’ll keep track of today’s V-Mart talk here…
- The Blue Jays are now among the teams interested in Martinez, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Though the team perhaps has a greater need in the infield, Heyman writes that the trade of Adam Lind has opened a door for Martinez to fit into the picture in Toronto. Heyman hears that the Tigers and Mariners are the other two primary suitors in the early stages, noting that Martinez is high on Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik’s wish list.
The market for some of the top hitters figures to begin taking shape today as the GM Meetings kick off in Phoenix, and the Mariners are already being connected to arguably the top two bats on the market. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted last night that the M’s have interest in Hanley Ramirez, although one source gave him the impression that Seattle’s priority is Victor Martinez. However, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that the Mariners are “aggressively pursuing” Ramirez and have expressed to his camp how badly the team wishes to sign him.
Ramirez could fill the Mariners’ hole at shortstop, and while his defense there is no longer a plus (it is, in fact, considered to be a significant negative), his bat would be an unequivocal upgrade over the combined .239/.295/.344 batting line posted by Seattle shortstops last season. There’s also the possibility that the Mariners could have a mind to put Ramirez in a corner outfield spot after he told teams last week that he’s willing to play anywhere on the diamond, though that seems unlikely, as Ramirez hasn’t played a game in the outfield in the Majors or Minors.
If there Mariners do indeed sign Ramirez, one has to wonder what it means for the future of shortstop Brad Miller. After opening the season as Seattle’s shortstop, Miller, 24, found himself unable to repeat the offensive success he showed in 2013. He struggled to a .221/.288/.365 batting line but played at least passable, if not above average defense at shortstop and is a sound baserunner. It’s possible that he could fill a utility role based on that ability at short, though other teams would likely have interest in acquiring Miller, who just recently turned 25. The Mariners also have Chris Taylor, 24, in their ranks, and Taylor was fairly impressive late in the season. He batted .287/.347/.346 in 151 plate appearances, although that line was bloated by a .398 average on balls in play. Taylor also whiffed in nearly 26 percent of his plate appearances and showed minimal power (eight doubles, no homers) after also showing limited pop throughout his minor league career.
The Mariners were one of the possible destinations listed for Ramirez in Zach Links’ Free Agent Profile of him last week. Zach ultimately predicted a six-year, $132MM contract for Ramirez. While a contract in that range is of course a steep price to pay, it pales in comparison to the 10-year, $240MM contract the M’s doled out to Robinson Cano last offseason. The Mariners also have a rising payroll thanks to a new television deal and their success in 2014, and the only two long-term pacts they have on the books are Cano and Felix Hernandez (though that duo is significant). Rosenthal does note that some sources with whom he’s spoken doubt that the Mariners would want to take on another $100MM+ contract.
Many have speculated that the Mariners will show strong interest in the soon-to-be 36-year-old Martinez, who is said to be seeking a four-year deal. Seattle designated hitters batted just .206/.276/.335 last season, so Martinez would represent a similarly large offensive upgrade for the team. Unlike Ramirez, adding Martinez wouldn’t unseat any young players such as Miller and Taylor, and the price tag, while still steep, could be half as much as that of Ramirez over a span of two fewer years. Of course, there’s also more concern for offensive decline with Martinez, who is entering his age-36 season, while Ramirez is entering his age-31 campaign.
Both Ramirez and Martinez received qualifying offers from their former clubs, but both are considered locks to reject the QO in search of a large multi-year deal. That means the Mariners would have to forfeit the No. 21 overall pick in order to sign either player. Should they sign both — which seems unlikely, though not impossible — the team would forfeit its first- and second-round selections. I listed both Ramirez and Martinez as possible fits for the M’s in their Offseason Outlook last month.