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 Tigers close to finalizing deal with V-Mart

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PostSubject: Tigers close to finalizing deal with V-Mart   Tue Nov 23, 2010 7:18 pm

Tigers close to finalizing deal with V-Mart
Free-agent catcher agrees to four-year, $50 million contract
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com | 11/23/10 3:22 PM EST

One Venezuelan superstar deserves another.

That's a formula the Tigers employed in pairing Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, and a formula they'll apparently continue by bringing catcher Victor Martinez into the fold.

Martinez has agreed in principle to a four-year, $50 million contract with the Tigers, with only a physical examination standing in the way of that signature, according to a baseball source.

The Tigers have not responded to the reports about the 31-year-old Martinez, though obviously the team would not announce the signing until a physical and all the proper paperwork is complete. FOXSports.com reported that the deal could be done Friday or Saturday.

Martinez, a Type A free agent, would cost the Tigers a first-round Draft pick as compensation to the Red Sox, who offered the catcher three years at $36 million and then four years at $42 million. The Tigers have the No. 19 overall pick in the first round of next year's Draft. If the Tigers go on to sign a higher-ranked Type A free agent, then Martinez would cost them a second-round pick.

A switch-hitter, Martinez would give the Tigers middle-of-the-order protection from both sides of the plate and the flexibility to help out at catcher, first base and designated hitter.

Martinez, who turns 32 next month, is a career .300 hitter with an .838 OPS over nine Major League seasons. The four-time All-Star came up with the Indians in 2002 and established himself as one of the premier offensive catchers in the league before getting dealt to the Red Sox at the Trade Deadline in 2009.

In 2010, Martinez batted .302 with 20 homers, 32 doubles, 79 RBIs and an .844 OPS. His declining defensive skills behind the plate were a cause for concern, but Alex Avila's presence would allow the Tigers to employ Martinez's bat elsewhere on occasion or perhaps even regularly. Martinez is a sound defensive option at first base, and he and Cabrera could wind up trading time at that position and at DH. Martinez is also noted to be a great teammate and team leader.

One note of concern for the Tigers, with regard to the Martinez signing, revolves around his lackluster career numbers at Comerica Park. Martinez has hit just .225 (38-for-169) with four homers, a .310 on-base percentage and a .349 slugging percentage in 47 games at the spacious ballpark. That makes for his lowest OPS (.671) at any park where he's logged at least 20 games played.

Splits aside, Martinez's presence could ease the burden on Cabrera, who lost valuable protection in the lineup when Ordonez suffered an ankle injury in July. The Tigers did not offer arbitration to Ordonez, a free agent, on Tuesday, but it's still possible that they could bring him back and give manager Jim Leyland a profound Venezuelan trio in the heart of the order.

Either way, if the Martinez deal gets completed, it will be the latest step in what has already been an aggressive offseason for the Tigers. The team has already come to terms on multi-year deals with third baseman Brandon Inge, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and reliever Joaquin Benoit.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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