According to his latest “Inside Baseball” article on CBS Sports, Jon Heyman reveals that it was Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, not former general manager Dave Dombrowski, who made the big push to re-sign Victor Martinez to the four-year, $68 million contract extension last year.
"It can be told now: Then GM Dombrowski was not in favor of $68 million for four years for Victor Martinez. It was owner Mike Ilitch’s call to make sure to bring back V-Mart."
This isn’t entirely surprising. It’s widely known that Ilitch worked directly with agent Scott Boras to sign Prince Fielder ahead of the 2012 season. We know the aging team owner has a strong desire to win in the immediate future, and we know he likes big name players.
Owners are certainly allowed to have input on player personnel — they’re the one writing the checks — but it’s always interesting (and questionable) when owners make large decisions (decisions they’re ostensibly empowering their general managers to make) and still hold their GM accountable when those decisions don’t work out.
Dombrowski was likely interested in discussing an extension with Martinez (who wouldn’t have been), but Heyman’s report suggests that Ilitch made the decision to sign the aging designated hitter at any cost. Also in Heyman’s article was a report about the Seattle Mariners being in the mix for Martinez, but at a much more reasonable $45 million commitment.
"The Mariners were in at $45 million for three years for V-Mart when Detroit blew them away."
It’s not clear if any other teams were involved in driving up the bidding (or if Martinez could have been had at a lower price than $68 million), but it sounds like Dombrowski tried to say no to the deal while Ilitch approved it.
We still don’t know 100% what happened between Ilitch and Dombrowski, although it does seem clear that he was basically fired (and not considered for a new contract) because of the way the team performed. Dombrowski certainly could have done more to address the glaring bullpen deficiency, but perhaps he would have been better able to address that with a few extra million dollars in his pocket.