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.
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.