Report: Tigers, Victor Martinez agree to $50M deal

The Detroit News

DETROIT — He'll catch some, occasionally start at first base. But that's not why the Tigers pursued Victor Martinez as a free agent.

They wanted his bat. And it appears they now have his bat.

Making no secret of their need and desire to sign a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, the Tigers reportedly have come to terms with Martinez on a four-year, $50 million contract.

Ignacio Serrano of El Nacional in Venezuela broke the story Tuesday morning. According to the report, Martinez turned down a four-year $50 million offer from the Orioles and a three-year, $48 million offer from the White Sox.

It could be he feels the Tigers are better positioned than the other two teams to get to the postseason during his contract.

The signing is the second free-agent addition the Tigers have made in a week. On Friday, they announced the signing of relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit to a three-year contract.
They've also extended Brandon Inge's contract for two years and signed shortstop Jhonny Peralta for two years.

So it's been a busy offseason so far for the Tigers.

And they might not be done. In fact, they probably aren't.

By not offering Magglio Ordonez arbitration Tuesday, the Tigers possibly opened the way to re-signing him for significantly less than the $18 million he made this year.

Ordonez has professed a desire to return to the Tigers, and no doubt knows he won't command from any team the kind of salary he's received since it climbed to $15 million in 2006. But there could be competition for Ordonez — so it's not automatic he'll return to the Tigers.

As a .300 career hitter, Martinez will be a major addition, however. The only surprise is that by signing with the Tigers, he'll now be hitting in a ballpark where his career batting average is .225 compared to the .336 he's hit at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field and the .296 he's hit at Baltimore's Camden Yards.

Obviously he doesn't anticipate his problems at Comerica Park to continue.

Martinez will turn 32 on Dec. 23. A major-leaguer since breaking in the Cleveland in 2002, he's not a kid. But as a hitter with career bests of 25 home runs and 114 RBIs, who's hit above.300 six times, he's had a productive major-league career.

There are no red flags that he's slowing down, either. For Boston this year, for instance, he hit .302 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIS. His RBI ratio was down, but for a weaker-than-usual Boston team, he had only 118 a-bats with runners in scoring position compared to 178 the year before, when he had 108 RBIS Martinez is a switch-hitter who would be comfortable hitting third if the Tigers don't bring Ordonez back — or fifth if they do.

Where he fits on the field might not be as easy to determine, however, as where he fits in the batting order.

Martinez started 110 games as the Red Sox catcher this year. But the Tigers have said Alex Avila will handle the bulk of their catching duties in 2011. Either they'll alter that plan or Martinez will catch less than he did.

But if he catches less, there still won't be a vacancy at first base where Martinez started 70 games in 2009. Miguel Cabrera is a fixture at first for the Tigers.

And, no, outfield is not an alternative. Martinez has never played in the outfield as a major-leaguer.

So what the Tigers have done for their $50 million is sign a projected designated hitter. With just 119 at-bats and a .235 batting average as a DH, it's a spot at which Martinez will have to get accustomed — but by signing with the Tigers, he has to know what positions are available to him and what aren't.

The bottom line is he's a hitter with a proven, productive track record — and that's what the Tigers both needed and targeted.


Because Martinez is a Type A free agent, Detroit will forfeit its first-round pick, No. 19 overall, to Boston. It's the second straight year the Tigers have given up their first-round pick for a free agent. Last offseason, that was the cost of signing closer Jose Valverde.


How Baseballs Are Made

So you're channel crusing on Saturday afternoon, and you come across "How It's Made." Boom! half and hour goes by!
Well allow yourself a five minute break, and watch this:

and don't wander down to the link to "How Louisville Sluggers are Made." This show is a time sink.

Love Conquers All

Time out from baseball. Friday my only daughter is getting married. There is no finer feeling. She is marrying a wonderful man and it will be one great Par-tee!!

Posey, Feliz win Rookie of the Year awards; Jackson deserved better

Just heard the news that Buster Posey and Neftali Feliz were landslide winners in the Rookie of the Year balloting. While NL fans will no doubt debate whether Posey deserved the award over Jason Heyward, that's at least an "apples to apples" argument. I think there's more to debate on the AL side, where Austin Jackson deserved a better fate.

Feliz caught the eye of the voters by setting a rookie record for saves (40), plus the Rangers made the playoffs. Both solid accomplishments. But while his pitching ability is impressive, Feliz is a role player. A specialist. That's not a slam, it's a fact. Feliz made 70 appearances and pitched 69.1 innings. The Rangers played 1,455 innings. So Feliz saw action 4.7 percent of the time.

Jackson, on the other hand, played fulltime -- and he played well. He became only the ninth rookie since 1901 to post 100 runs, 170 hits, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Yes, he struck out 170 times, and the nay-sayers are hanging their hat on that one. But Jackson was given way more opportunity to fail that Feliz was. Jackson had 675 plate appearances and played 1,256 innings of Gold Glove-caliber centerfield. That means he was in on 87 percent of the action.

Plus, Jackson performed at that level while replacing Curtis Granderson, the Tigers most popular player. Who did Feliz replace? Frank Francisco and his 25 saves/3.83 ERA (2009). Not exactly the same size shoes.

Then, just for fun, let's just throw this out there: MLB's idea of a "rookie" is a joke. Feliz pitched in 20 games last year (while Jackson was in the minor leagues), yet he still fell 19 innings short of being considered a rookie. Are you kidding me? According to the rules, you're still a rookie if you pitch less than 50 innings. Non-pitchers get 130 at-bats. Averaging four at-bats a game, a player could play 32 full games and still be considered a rookie the following season. Do you think Jackson would have better or worse in 2010 if he had played fulltime in the majors for an entire month last fall? Come on MLB, how 'bout giving the Rookie of the Year award to an actual rookie?

Either way, Jackson deserved it.

Baseball Bucket List

Ok sports fans, I have been very fortunate throughtout the years to have attended some unbelievable athletic events. It still does not satisy my craving to do more. From Denny's 30th win, the 71 All Star Game at Tiger Stadium, the World Series in 84, and that is just the beginning. It would be a lot of fun to put together your Bucket List of your favorite baseball live events that you attended, and what you are looking forward to doing before we meet Sparky again for that final pitching change. Write them down and send them in. I will bet that they are all different.

Good luck and I can't wait to see yours.

Sparky in Hospice Care

Tigers legend Sparky Anderson in hospice care

Sparky Anderson, the all-time leader among Tigers managers in victories, visibility and inimitable quotations, has been placed in hospice care, according to a statement released today from his family.

Anderson is 76.

The family said Anderson was suffering from complications resulting from dementia and he was at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

“It’s the type of ailment that takes a toll over time,” said family spokesperson Dan Ewald, who was in California with Anderson about three weeks ago.

The statement also said: The Anderson family — wife, Carol; sons Lee and Albert; and daughter Shirley Englebrecht – “wishes to express appreciation to all friends and fans for the support and kindness they have shown throughout Sparky’s career and retirement.”

Ewald, who has been friends with Anderson for 35 years, spent about a week with Anderson in October. They talked about some of old times they shared in baseball during the trip.

One of the stories the pair relived was a trip to Minnesota to play the Twins in 1987. They hailed a cab to go to the ballpark. Ewald paid for the fare and wanted to give the driver an extra bonus because they were in the playoffs.

The next day the two grabbed another cab and somehow got the same driver. On their way to the ballpark, Anderson and Ewald nudged each other signaling they wanted to play a joke on the driver. The two start talking loudly about how badly they were going to beat the Twins, so the driver, who was a Twins fan, would hear them and say something.

But the driver didn’t respond. After a while, Ewald tapped the driver on the shoulder and said, “Do you know who this is?” He pointed at Anderson thinking he might know.

The driver looked at Anderson and said, “No, I don’t recognize him, but I recognize you. You gave me a big tip the other day.” That gave Anderson a good laugh.

“The little stories in baseball, particularly with Sparky, are the ones that are the most precious,” Ewald said.

Anderson managed the Tigers from the middle of the 1979 season through 1995. His 17 seasons are most in club history. The runner-up is Hughie Jennings, who managed Ty Cobb’s Tigers for 14 seasons in the first part of the 20th Century. Anderson beat Jennings’ record for most victories by a Tigers manager by 200 (1,331-1,131).

Throughout his years near or at the top of baseball through his 2000 election to the Hall of Fame, Anderson rejected the airs of celebrity, no matter how prominent he became. He forever seemed as happy to see people he knew — and didn’t know — as they did to see him.

The Bridgewater, S.D., native, born George Lee Anderson, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, deflecting credit for the honor.

"The players are the ones who earn their way into Hall of Fame," he sad in his acceptance speech in Cooperstown, N.Y. "Managers like me, we just ride in on their backs."

A second baseman, Anderson played one season for the 1959 Phillies. He managed the Cincinnati Reds 1970-78, winning the World Series in 1975 and 1976. He was named the American League manager of the year in 1984 and 1987. His record with the Tigers was 1,331 wins, 1,248 losses.

After he left the Tigers, Anderson kept ties to Michigan through CATCH, an organization he started in 1987 that raises money to help sick and at-risk kids. For years Anderson returned for CATCH's annual golf event in Northville.

Since its inception, CATCH has rung up about $4 million for Henry Ford Hospital and Children's Hospital of Michigan with support from golfers and sponsors such as Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA.

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