Jul 3, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) hits the dirt after getting brushed back by a pitch in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
In hindsight, it’s very easy to say that giving Victor Martinez a four year, $68 million contract extension was a mistake, but the warning signs were there ahead of time as well.
Even if he hit reasonably well in 2015, the contract was never going to pay off. The Tigers were paying a 36+ year old who couldn’t play the field — and who was only two years removed from missing a season due to injury — loads of money to be a middle-of-the-order hitter. There was only one way this could have gone well and dozens of ways it could have gone poorly.
It’s unfortunate that Martinez failed to live up to the contract this soon, but the Tigers gave themselves very little wiggle room here. They already had an aging (and potentially injury-prone) slugger at first base, so the Tigers were simultaneously betting that (1) Martinez would stay healthy, (2) Martinez would stay productive, and (3) that Cabrera would stay healthy.
There was no room to give Cabrera a break by DH-ing him. There was no room to use the DH spot to give the team positional flexibility elsewhere.
If the Tigers could go back in time and undo one move from the offseason it wouldn’t be to sign a reliable closer for the bullpen. It would be to hit Victor with a qualifying offer and letting him walk in free agency.
But contract issue aside, Victor simply didn’t hit this season. His 77 wRC+ might be acceptable for an elite defensive shortstop or center fielder, but it’s not going to cut it out of a designated hitter. The Tigers are sort of pot committed to Martinez heading into 2016, but the need to have a plan in case he doesn’t turn it around.
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