The Tigers announced that they’ve signed outfielder Leonys Martin to a one-year, Major League contract for the 2018 season. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (via Twitter) that he’ll earn a guaranteed $1.75MM with the opportunity to pick up another $1.1MM via incentives.
Meanwhile, catcher Derek Norris, right-hander Enrique Burgos and outfielder Jim Adduci have signed minor league deals that contain invites to Spring Training, per the team. The Tigers also confirmed their previously reported minor league deal with first baseman Edwin Espinal.
Martin, 30 next March, should have ample opportunity to pick up at-bats with the Tigers, who enter the offseason with a thin outfield mix. Mikie Mahtook, JaCoby Jones and Nicholas Castellanos currently sit atop the depth chart in Detroit, though Jones has yet to establish himself in the Majors while Castellanos is a trade candidate. Martin could supplant Jones, and at the very least the two will compete for regular at-bats during Spring Training this year.
In Martin, the Tigers are adding a left-handed bat and a fleet-footed defender that can handle all three outfield spots. The former Rangers/Mariners outfielder hasn’t hit much in recent years, but Martin has consistently drawn top-notch reviews for his defensive work — most of which has come in center field. Defensive Runs Saved pegs him at +46 in nearly 4500 big league innings, while Ultimate Zone Rating has him at 30 runs better than average. Detroit outfielders, collectively, drew marks of -10 and -7 from DRS and UZR last season, so adding Martin to the mix should prove to be a significant boon, even if it comes at the expense of some offense.
Martin’s struggles with the bat have indeed been pronounced over the past three seasons, during which time he’s twice posted an OPS south of .600. Overall, in his past 1024 MLB plate appearances, Martin has batted .228/.283/.345. At his best, Martin does show some pop, and he’s always a threat on the basepaths as well. Martin’s batted-ball profile has been increasingly fly-ball oriented in recent years, and while many in the league have had great success in that regard, it hasn’t worked out for him. Perhaps a return to a more ground-ball-based approach and some work to curtail his recent uptick in punchouts can at least return his bat to serviceable levels.
As a bonus for the Tigers, Martin comes with just four years, 161 days of Major League service time, meaning if he does turn things around at all, he’ll be controllable through the 2019 season via arbitration. That could help both in making him a multi-year asset for a rebuilding Detroit club or by making him more appealing to potential trade suitors in the event of a bounceback.
Norris, 29 in February, struggled to a .201/.258/.380 line in 198 plate appearances with the Rays last season. He hasn’t performed well at the plate since a solid run with the A’s and Padres in 2013-15, though he at one point in his career showed a penchant for drawing walks and the power to post double-digit homer totals. He’ll compete for a backup catching job, though with James McCann and John Hicks in the fold, it seems likelier that he’ll head to Triple-A to open the year.
Norris was released by the Rays this past June, and his season formally came to a conclusion on Sept. 1 when commissioner Rob Manfred placed him on the restricted list for the final month of the year “based on the results of” an investigation into domestic violence allegations made by his former fiancee. Notably, it does not seem as though there were ever any criminal charges brought forth against Norris. He’s not facing any punishment from the league in 2018.
The 27-year-old Burgos has shown the ability to miss bats at the big league level, averaging 10.8 K/9 in 68 1/3 innings across multiple stints with the D-backs, dating back to 2015. He’s averaged nearly 96 mph on his fastball but has also issued five walks per nine innings as a Major Leaguer. He’ll vie for a spot in an unsettled Tigers bullpen and, if he can eventually put things together, is controllable all the way through the 2022 season.
Adduci, 32, returned from a strong stint in the Korea Baseball Organization this year and made his way to the Tigers’ big league roster, where he batted .241/.323/.398 in 93 PAs. Adduci has just 241 big league PAs, which have resulted in a .209/.283/.302 slash.