Tigers, Victor Martinez make it official
AP Sports Writer
As Victor Martinez tried to decide where to play next season, one of his countrymen contacted him about the possibility of teaming up in Detroit.
Now Martinez and Miguel Cabrera will form a powerful duo in the middle of the lineup for the Tigers.
Detroit introduced Martinez on Friday after completing a four-year contract with the 31-year-old switch-hitter. The Tigers’ top priority this offseason was to add another big bat, so Cabrera helped recruit his fellow Venezuelan.
“He did make a few phone calls, and I expressed to him the desire that I wanted to make it happen,” Martinez said on a conference call. “It is a great organization.”
Detroit had reached a preliminary agreement with Martinez on a $50 million, four-year contract.
Martinez hit .302 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs in 127 games with Boston last season. He started 106 games at catcher, but that number may be cut in half now that he’s with the Tigers, who want him to be their designated hitter while occasionally filling in behind the plate. Alex Avila is still expected to be the team’s No. 1 catcher.
“We expect Victor to be in our lineup on a daily basis, serving primarily as our club’s designated hitter and catching two to three times a week,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “He also has the ability to fill in at first base and his versatility allows us to keep a premier bat in our lineup every day.”
Detroit already re-signed third baseman Brandon Inge and shortstop Jhonny Peralta this offseason, and the Tigers added reliever Joaquin Benoit last week. They were looking for another offensive threat to go along with Cabrera, the slugging first baseman who hit .328 with 38 home runs in 2010 and finished second to Josh Hamilton in the AL MVP vote.
Even with Cabrera’s production, the Tigers finished only eighth in the American League in runs and went 81-81. They were hurt by injuries to Inge, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.
“Once Magglio went down, we didn’t have another offensive force in the middle of our lineup,” Dombrowski said.
Ordonez is recovering from right ankle surgery and played only 84 games. The Tigers did not exercise his $15 million option, so he’s a free agent. Dombrowski had left open the possibility of Ordonez returning to the Tigers, but he wouldn’t comment Friday on whether there was still a chance of that.
Detroit finished 13 games behind AL Central-winning Minnesota. The Tigers were unable to capitalize on an impressive season by center fielder Austin Jackson, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year race. With a rotation anchored by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Tigers were clearly hoping for an immediate return to contention, and Dombrowski wasted no time identifying players he wanted to keep or add.
Martinez was signed by the Indians as a 17-year-old shortstop, then developed into an All-Star. He played in Cleveland from 2002 until he was traded to the Red Sox during the 2009 season.
Martinez was limited to 73 games in 2008 because of an elbow injury, but he bounced back to hit 23 homers in 155 games with Cleveland and Boston the following year.
“I used to play against the Tigers a lot,” Martinez said. “I can just see the way these guys are trying to improve the team every year.”