The Detroit Tigers and All-Star switch-hitter Victor Martinez agreed to a four-year, $68 million deal that extends his contract through the 2018 season.
The 35-year-old is coming off of the best season of his career, where he posted a .335 batting average while belting 32 home runs and driving in 103 runs. Martinez’s 6.6% strikeout rate and .974 OPS were best in the majors and his 28 intentional walks led the league as well. His .409 on-base percentage was the best in the majors, his 57 multi-hit games was the third most in the AL, and he had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio out of any hitter.
If the eye-popping numbers are not enough reason to re-sign Martinez, ponder this — Martinez is the first player since David Ortiz in 2006 to be voted as an MVP finalist while playing primarily the designated hitter position. Big Papi had 54 home runs and 137 RBIs, with a .413 on base percentage.
Additionally, Martinez was the first player since Albert Pujols in 2006 to hit over 30 home runs while recording less than 50 punch-outs. Pujols hit 49 home runs and 137 RBIs, with a .431 on-base percentage.
Martinez’s season was on par with some of the most dominant in recent history, which left Dave Dombrowski little choice. One of the main points of contention for Martinez was getting a four-year contract. The Tigers’ qualifying offer of one year and $15.3 million was not enough to immediately lure Martinez back, so he threatened to test the free agent market.
After approximately three days of rumors swirling around that both the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were highly interested in Martinez, Dombrowski decided to drop the hammer.
This is the Tigers’ mentality that has been employed by every member of the organization for four years in a row.
Every September for four seasons, Detroit has found itself atop their division, drenched in champagne, only to watch their dreams fall short in October. In every season, the mantra of ‘this is our year’ has been sung at one time or another.
However, after the 2014 season, an unfamiliar uncertainty of ‘will we be back’ circled the team that has been the most dominant franchise in the American League over the past five seasons.
The Tigers will almost certainly lose 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, and that alone was enough to cause fans to ask if “the window” had closed.
That is why Martinez had to stay.
The money? Phooey the money. This is about “the window.” Whether this window is metaphorical, literal, figurative, or any combination of the above, it is getting foggy and Dombrowski had to bring in the Windex to clean it up.
Fans love to point out how in 2018, after Martinez’s contract is up, Detroit will still owe more than $200 million to two 35-year-olds, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.
Is that a legitimate monetary concern? Of course it is. But does that mean you make today’s decisions based on the potential situation in four years? No.
Predicting what the team will look like four years away is as good as Madame Zeroni predicting your future. Who in 2003 could have predicted that the Tigers, the second-worst team in the history of Major League Baseball at the time, would make the World Series just three years later in 2006.
The truth of the matter is baseball is a funny game. There is no telling what will happen down the road. There is no telling whether a 39 year-old Martinez is worth $17 million in 2018. All we know is right now.
Right now, Victor Martinez is the best designated hitter in the game. Right now, Detroit is the reigning AL Central division champion. Right now, 2018 cap space is irrelevant.
Think of this like a young child on Christmas Eve. If you were allowed to open all of the presents on the 24th, would you do so? Of course you would.
Merry Christmas to you, Detroit Tigers. The 2015 season is Christmas Eve, and you are the little kid who has not learned about delayed gratification. You have the gift of Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, David Price, and now once again, Victor Martinez, putting on your old english D.
So what does the re-signing of Victor Martinez mean?
You are once again in the forefront as potential World Series champions.
Now, you better ho-ho-hope, it pays off.
Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.