By Tommy Rancel //
The Detroit Tigers continue to be the most aggressive team during the early stages of the off-season hot stove. Earlier today, they signed C/1B/DH Victor Martinez to a four-year deal worth a reported $50 million dollars. In addition to the money, the Tigers also surrendered their first-round pick to the Boston Red Sox because of Martinez’s Type-A status.
Martinez will be 32 by opening day 2011; however, he is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. A career .300/.369/.469 hitter, he hit .302/.351/.493 in his first full season with the Red Sox. His patience at the plate dropped slightly, but that coincided with an increase in power numbers.
While it is unlikely he is still an everyday catcher at the end of this contract, one would assume the Tigers’ plan is to have the bulk of his playing time from behind the plate in 2011. They have the AL MVP runner-up in Miguel Cabrera at first base and paying Martinez to DH doesn’t make sense – at least at this point in his career. Sure, he’ll spell Cabrera at times and take a few hacks at DH, but he should be prepared to catch 100+ times in 2011.
This is good news for fantasy owners as Martinez will remain a top player at the position. Along with Joe Mauer and NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, Martinez provides a blend of average and power that is a rarity for the position.
There is some concern about him leaving the cozy dimensions of Fenway Park for the spacious Comerica Park; however, it shouldn’t be a huge factor. It is true Fenway is a haven for doubles hitters. In fact, 23 of Martinez’s 32 doubles in 2010 came at home, but the vast outfield in Detroit should lead to its fair share of extra bases as well. According to ESPN’s park factors, Detroit’s park was actually more home run friendly than Boston’s; another good sign for Martinez, who split his 20 home runs equally on the home and road.
The concerns of moving positions shouldn’t be a factor this season. And the change in ballparks isn’t as extreme as one might think. Because of his ability to hit for an average around .300 with upwards of 50 extra-base hits a season as a catcher, Martinez should once again be a primary target of fantasy owners in 2011.
For more on Victor Martinez and the catcher position, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.