When you have roughly 71 million tied up in three aging stars as the Tigers do, your window to win is now. After last season’s wack-a-doo resigning of Miguel Cabrera to an 8-year/248 million dollar extension, the Tigers might as well push their remaining chips into the center of the table and go for broke. Don’t let the fact that this sort of strategy didn’t work out too well for Felix Stephensen dissuade you.1 What else can the Tigers do, however? Four years and 70 million on a very soon to be 36-year old is the cost of doing business.
I’m sure the Internets will hate this deal. We tend to hate these things. If four years is what it took to resign Martinez, and honestly, 70 million is a fairly reasonable rate these days, then give the man 4 years. At 35 he was a legitimate MVP candidate, even when account for the positional devaluation of someone who rarely needs a glove. Using Matt Swartz’s estimation of cost per win, with a very reasonable 4% increase over the next few years, Martinez would likely have to average out to around 1.5-2 fWAR to make the deal worth it. The list of DHs that were able to produce at that level past the age of 36 is fairly sizable. Along with the names of players like Edgar Martinez and Paul Molitor, you know, all-time greats, there are a few sprinklings of Rico Carty and Brian Downing as well. It will be fine.
The Tigers didn’t have many other options here. Their farm system isn’t producing any blue chippers anytime soon, and last season’s top prospect Nick Castellanos, who probably should be the DH, is mangling third. Maybe the Tigers could have tried to go a little younger here, look to shoulder their way into Chase Headley discussion and move Castellanos to DH (or what, try to snake Billy Butler away from his heart’s desire in Kansas City? He’s a .330/.374/.492 hitter lifetime at Comerica Park, and he’s only 29. You know, the more I read that the more I really like that idea) or keep the spot open for Cabrera.
Speaking of Cabrera, he’ll likely only be playing at an elite level for a few more seasons anyway, and the much chronicled decline of Justin Verlander’s velocity is real. He’s now tossing fastballs a tick above 93 per, down 2 mph from his Cy Young/MVP halcyon days of 2011. Give Martinez his money, hope the eight games he lost to soreness in his lower back isn’t the precursor of some Marco Scutaro-like lower back system breakdown, and move onto decisions about Max Scherzer and David Price.
According to Spotrac, the Tigers are on the hook for just 127 million so far for next year, even after the Martinez signing. There are still a lot of holes left to fill, but there’s wiggle room if the team wants to keep the payroll around last season’s 161 million. If that’s the case, you can probably forget resigning Scherzer or just plan on Scherzer and the remaining roster replete with a diet of Nyjer Morgan (why does that move make sense to me all of a sudden too?) and Kyle Farnsworth one-year veteran minimum types.
Regardless of what happens with Scherzer, a full season of Anibal Sanchez and Price will keep this team in games, and the offense will still score runs. Can the defense knock enough balls down to prevent them? Well, a full season of Jose Iglesias will help some with that, but he might be forced to cover third as well.
The Tigers will still be the team to beat in the Central next season. If they take some of their payroll and fix the bullpen, they might even hang around in the playoffs long enough to make another Series run.
- This is what happens when a bad lower back forces you to be unable to sleep. You find ways to place poker references into all of your articles. Trust me, there are more. Sigh. ↩