Victor Martinez Rumors

AL Central Notes: Buxton, Sox, V-Mart, Tigers, Young

Speaking about the team’s recent promotion of top prospect Byron Buxton, Twins GM Terry Ryan told Kris Atteberry of Twins Radio (audio link): “We brought up Buxton because he’s the best one we had available at the time. We have a few guys down there that we considered, but they aren’t as good as Buxton, so we brought up Byron to give him a shot. … I’m hoping that things go well enough that we don’t have to worry about it.” Based on Ryan’s comments, it seems that Buxton will have the opportunity to play his way into a regular role moving forward. A productive Buxton would certainly increase Minnesota’s chances of remaining in the hunt for the division and could also eliminate a potential area of need in trades — an upgrade in the outfield.

More from the AL Central…

  • Asked by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin about the possibility of the White Sox becoming deadline sellers, David Robertson said that he would be understanding of any route that GM Rick Hahn felt was best for the team. “If that happens, you know, that’s just part of the game,” said the closer, who signed a four-year, $46MM contract this winter. “That’s obviously a decision that I’m not even involved in. The organization has to do what’s best for them. If that’s the way this season turns out, then so be it.” Robertson, however, feels that the Sox still have the pieces to contend and believes a turnaround is possible with strong performances against division rivals in Kansas City and Detroit. Chicago is currently seven games under .500 and nine back in the AL Central.
  • Victor Martinez will rejoin the Tigers this weekend in New York and could be activated from the disabled list at that time, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. Martinez has been out since May 19 but looked strong on a Triple-A rehab assignment to date, going 4-for-12 with a double in 12 plate appearances.
  • In a mailbag column, Schmehl addresses potential trade scenarios for the Tigers this summer, reporting that the team will consider adding starting pitching. Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir are two seemingly speculative names tossed out by Schmehl. He adds that Detroit is likely to add a relief arm as well, though not an elite closer like Aroldis Chapman, as the team is happy with Joakim Soria in the ninth inning.
  • In a piece for FOX Sports, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the unique nature of Chris Young‘s ability to drastically outperform his FIP by virtue of consistently posting one of the lowest BABIP marks in baseball. While there’s a good amount of luck involved in BABIP, Young’s extreme fly-ball tendencies — specifically his ability to induce infield flies — has allowed him to post a .240 BABIP dating back to 2006. Cameron notes that in such a heavily analytical era, it’s not surprising that teams were so reluctant to gamble on a 36-year-old soft-tosser with a 5.02 FIP in 2014, but Young’s mastery of a rare skill set has made him a bargain.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Mets, Tigers, Yankees, Coghlan

The Mets appear to be keeping tabs on Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segurareports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. Of the two, Ramirez is the more practical target for New York. He is expected to retire after the season and does not have a no-trade clause. The Mets are also interested in Ben Zobrist, but they believe other teams will outbid them.

  • The Tigers may not need to buy at the trade deadline due to the impending returns of Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Bruce Rondon, and Alex Avila. The lineup has struggled to push runs across the plate, but they lead the AL in OBP. When asked by Rosenthal, GM Dave Dombrowski said there are no scenarios under which the club could become deadline sellers. That means David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alfredo Simon are unlikely to be traded.
  • The Yankees rotation may not be a priority at the trade deadline if the current starters remain healthy. In addition to the current options, Ivan Nova will begin a rehab assignment soon. Prospects Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell provide further depth. The club could still acquire a star like Cole Hamels, but GM Brian Cashman says some of their top prospects are untouchable.
  • The easiest position for the Cubs to upgrade is left field. Chris Coghlan is hitting just .224/.298/.421 on the season. An unusually low .245 BABIP explains his low average. The club could hope for BABIP regression or replace him in one of several ways. They could trade for somebody like Zobrist. Alternatively, Javier Baez could be promoted to man third base with Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.

Victor Martinez Has Successful Knee Surgery

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).



AL Notes: V-Mart, Miley, Hunter, Mariners

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.”

Tigers Re-Sign Victor Martinez

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.

Victor  Martinez

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.


Central Notes: White Sox, Royals, V-Mart

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.

 


Blue Jays Notes: Martin, Kawasaki, Phillies

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.

Free Agent Notes: V-Mart, Hart, Grilli, Ichiro

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.

All 12 Players Reject Qualifying Offer

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.

Earlier Updates

  • 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.

Ten Teams Showing Interest In Torii Hunter

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.