Victor Martinez Rumors

Quick Hits: D’Backs, Martinez, Killebrew

Links for Tuesday night, after a memorable two-homer day for Brian McCann…  

  • Former D'Backs manager Bob Melvin has returned to the organization as a special baseball advisor, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert.
  • Patrick Newman of FanGraphs checks in on some former Major Leaguers who are now playing in Japan.
  • Victor Martinez told MLB.com's Jason Beck that he has no hard feelings toward his former team, the Red Sox. "I have nothing but great things to say about the organization, the city, the fans," Martinez said. "It was one of my great experiences in my big league career." Tomorrow Martinez returns to Boston for the first time since signing with the Tigers.
  • Paul Molitor told Jim Caple of ESPN.com that he grew up idolizing fellow Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who passed away today. For more reflections on the popular "lumberjack type" slugger, check out Caple's piece.

Avila’s Hot Start Gives Tigers Depth At Catcher

Whether you look at home runs (6) and RBI (23) or wins above replacement (1.0) and wOBA (.387) you’ll see Alex Avila’s name all over early season leaderboards. He has thrown out 12 of 33 would-be base stealers so far this year (36%) and the most recent of his six home runs came when he was navigating Justin Verlander through nine no-hit innings on Saturday.

“That was definitely nice. It’s the best of both worlds,” Avila told MLBTR this weekend. “I was joking with Justin that four of my six home runs are when he’s pitching. It seems that when he’s pitching, I’m going to hit one out.”

Avila

A 5th round pick in 2008, Avila is the son of Tigers assistant GM Al Avila. He hit .228/.316/.340 and threw out 32% of would-be base stealers as Detroit's primary catcher in 2010. This year, he’s feeling more comfortable as a hitter and as a defender.

“When you first come up, there’s always an adjustment period, a time when you’ve got to learn and figure out how to not only catch, but hit in the big leagues and the experience definitely helps,” Avila said. “You learn more about yourself and the league and make adjustments from there.”

The Tigers aren’t expecting Avila to continue at his current 28-homer pace, but the front office believes he can continue to be a valuable everyday catcher – and his father’s not the only one who thinks so.

“He has a nice left-handed swing,” GM Dave Dombrowski said. “We think he can hit.”

Avila’s new teammate, Victor Martinez, is one of baseball’s best hitting catchers, having reached the 20-homer plateau five times in the past seven seasons. Though the Tigers don’t plan on asking Martinez to catch more than a couple times per week, he has still helped Avila develop as a backstop.

“Absolutely,” Avila said. “Victor has helped me a ton with both aspects of my game. He’s such a positive person and generous with his time. He’s just fantastic.”

It's still too early to assume the 24-year-old Avila will continue hitting at this rate. But at this point, it appears that the Tigers have a pair of quality catchers thanks to his development.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


Tigers Notes: Leyland, Martinez, Boesch

Max Scherzer led the Tigers past the Yankees with eight innings of shutout ball yesterday, striking out nine along the way. It was the second consecutive win for the Tigers, who already trail the Indians by 7.0 games in the AL Central. Here's the latest out of Detroit…



Orioles Notes: Martinez, Wieters, Jones

The Orioles will attempt to recover from their first loss of the season tonight when they face Brad Penny and the Tigers. In the meantime, here are some links…

  • Victor Martinez tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that he appreciated the Orioles' interest in him this offseason, when they offered $48MM over four years to become their first baseman. "It was a pretty tough decision," Martinez said. Instead, he signed with the Tigers for $50MM.
  • Orioles pitching coach Mark Connor told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that catcher Matt Wieters is "by far the most amazing 'feel' guy at that age" he has ever seen. Wieters' tempo and game-calling are impressing the Orioles. Those skills were a big reason the Orioles weren't interested in Martinez as a catcher.
  • Peter Schmuck of the Sun isn't looking to nitpick, but he says Adam Jones' approach at the plate is one potential area of concern for the Orioles early on.
  • After a surprising 4-1 start thanks to their impressive pitching, the Orioles are 15th on WEEI.com's power rankings.

AL East Notes: Martinez, Crawford, Sanchez

Daisuke Matsuzaka had his best outing of the spring against the Tigers today, allowing two hits and a walk in five scoreless innings, striking out five. Here's the latest on the AL East, as the Red Sox and their fans gain a little confidence in the back of their rotation…

  • Victor Martinez, who was playing against his former team this afternoon, told the Boston Herald that he "loved" Boston and has no hard feelings toward the Red Sox. V-Mart added that he thinks the Red Sox are offseason winners because they improved their pitching and offense.
  • Alex Speier of WEEI.com wonders what might have happened if the Red Sox had re-signed Martinez. A team source tells Speier that the Red Sox thought there was a chance the backstop would return. But as we heard earlier in the offseason, the Red Sox had doubts about Martinez's ability to catch long-term.
  • If Martinez had returned, Speier hears that the Red Sox would have had the resources to pursue either Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez, but not both.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Yankees right-hander Romulo Sanchez has been impressing scouts (Twitter link). The out-of-options 26-year-old could fit on a team looking for relief help, according to Rosenthal.

Two Carl Crawford Deals That Could Have Been

Boston offered Victor Martinez to Tampa Bay for Carl Crawford before the 2010 season, according to Tom Verducci of SI.com. Though the Rays were open to the deal, they told the Red Sox they’d have to pursue other trades to make the swap work. Tampa Bay’s secondary moves fell through, so Crawford and Martinez stayed put.

The Red Sox weren't the only AL East team with interest in Crawford, but they showed considerably more interest than the Yankees. Crawford told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he doesn't think the Yankees were seriously interested in his services last winter when he hit free agency. “If the Yankees want somebody they go out and get them, don’t they?,” Crawford asked. Cliff Lee notwithstanding, he has a point.


Cafardo On Gonzalez, V-Mart, Rangers, Nishioka

Let's take a look at the latest from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe….

  • Cafardo suggests the money the Red Sox could have spent on Victor Martinez may be used to make a bigger splash. He speculates that splash could involve trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing him to an extension, but ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider-only link) still expects the Padres to begin the 2011 season with Gonzalez on their roster.
  • One National League GM on Boston deciding not to match the Tigers' offer for Martinez: "He really rakes lefthanded pitching. That was the strange thing about the Red Sox for me — that in a division where there are so many good lefthanded pitchers, Martinez hit them at a .400 clip [in 2010]. Big, big loss for the Red Sox."
  • One option the Rangers are discussing internally, in the event they can't sign Cliff Lee, is moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation and signing a closer such as Rafael Soriano.
  • Olney reported earlier this week that rival executives view the Rangers as the team with the best shot at acquiring Zack Greinke. Cafardo hears the same thing, noting that Engel Beltre is "often mentioned as trade bait."
  • As we heard when the Twins won the bidding for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Red Sox were also involved. According to Cafardo, Boston's bid was about $2.3MM, and their interest in the Japanese shortstop was "marginal." With Jed Lowrie and Jose Iglesias already in the organization, Nishioka didn't make a ton of sense for the club.
  • Cafardo expects the Padres, Red Sox, or Indians to hire Josh Byrnes in the near future.

Odds & Ends: Tigers, Orioles, Manny, Astros, Uribe

Happy birthday to two former All-Star catchers!  Future Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez turns 39 today, while Angels manager Mike Scioscia turns 52.

Some news items…


Cabrera Helped Tigers Sign Victor Martinez

Miguel Cabrera knew the Tigers had some financial flexibility this winter, so he told GM Dave Dombrowski he’d be happy to help the team recruit free agents. Dombrowski took his first baseman up on the offer and told him to call up Victor Martinez. Just three weeks into the offseason, Cabrera and the Tigers accomplished their goal, luring Martinez to Detroit with some persuasive words and a four-year, $50MM contract.

Martinez drew strong interest from "at least six teams," agent Scott Pucino said on a conference call with reporters. Martinez says Cabrera’s recruiting was "a good part" of his decision to sign in Detroit, but it wasn't the primary reason he turned down other offers.

"Bottom line, I just want to win," Martinez said. "I came here because I want to win. Anything that I can do to make this team better [and] win, man. I want to do it. I’m just really excited and I just want to win bad."

Martinez made it clear that he'll play any position the Tigers ask him to. Dombrowski says the 31-year-old will be the team's regular DH, catch two or three times a week and back up at first base. Alex Avila will remain the team's primary catcher; Dombrowski expects the precise breakdown to take care of itself.

The Tigers lose their 2011 first rounder for signing Martinez, a Type A free agent. Dombrowski said the Tigers were willing to surrender their top pick for Martinez because it's difficult to acquire All-Star caliber major leaguers.

"For example if we had a straight trade for him, would I be willing to give up a number one type of talent in return for him? The question would depend upon who you’re talking about in any case, but the generality of it would be yes,” Dombrowski said.

The Tigers, who surrendered their first round draft pick last year after they signed Type A free agent Jose Valverde, say they can overcome the lost picks by signing top international free agents and drafting aggressively.

“Last year we supplemented it by drafting somebody in the sandwich pick, Nick Castellanos, that we thought was a legitimate high number one pick, so we were able to fill that role,” Dombrowski said.  

The Tigers have not shied away from talented, but expensive amateur players in recent years and they have Rick Porcello, Jacob Turner and, more recently, Castellanos to show for it.

This offseason the Tigers have been exceptionally aggressive on the free agent market, signing Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta and Joaquin Benoit. They're settled in the infield, behind the plate and at DH and they like outfielders Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn, but they aren't necessarily done their offseason shopping yet. Dombrowski acknowledged that the team may add another outfielder.


Reaction To The Victor Martinez Signing

Victor Martinez's four-year, $50MM contract with the Tigers was finalized today.  Now that the offseason's first major free agent has left the market, there is no shortage of commentary about how this move impacts Martinez's former club in Boston.  A sampling…

  • "The Tigers are paying Martinez with the expectation that he’ll be able to replicate the career of [Jorge] Posada," writes The Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson, while the Red Sox saw Martinez as another Mike Lieberthal.
  • CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam points out that if Boston had to lose Martinez, Detroit was the best possible team to lose him to since the Tigers have the highest unprotected pick (19th overall) in the 2011 amateur draft.  WEEI.com's Alex Speier, however, points out that Boston's compensatory pick will fall into the second round if the Tigers sign a higher-ranked free agent than Martinez — namely, Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.
  • In a separate story from Speier, multiple Red Sox sources say they doubt Martinez will remain a viable catcher for more than two seasons. As Speier points out, handing lots of responsibility to Jarrod Saltalamacchia is risky, but signing Martinez long-term would have been risky, too.  Speier says "the decision bore striking parallels" to when Johnny Damon signed with New York after the 2005 season.
  • Writing for WEEI.com, former Boston utilityman Lou Merloni thinks the Red Sox made a mistake by not re-signing Martinez.
  • Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe thinks Theo Epstein may be putting too much emphasis on stockpiling draft picks.

MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post