When the offseason officially began a few weeks ago, it was made known early and often by many fans that there was one name on the wishlist for the Seattle Mariners: Victor Martinez. It was even reported by several outlets that he was a “high priority” for Seattle.
And why not? He completed a 2014 season in which he posted career-highs in hits (188), homers (32), batting average (.335), on-base percentage (.409- led the AL), slugging (.565), OPS (.974- led the AL), OPS+ (168), total bases (317) and intentional walks (28- led the AL).
All of this coming in his age 35 season and in a contract year.
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It is for those reasons that I wanted to steer clear of him this offseason. Many people have pointed out that Martinez is not a right-handed hitter and THAT’S why the Mariners should avoid him. He is a switch hitter who hit left-handers at a .371 clip in 2014. So, there is the appeal. And, keep in mind that during V-Mart’s career he hits lefties at a .305 clip, just one point below his career overall average.
He would have been a valuable addition to the offense, don’t get me wrong. But I refer you again to the single line above- he was 35 (will be 36 by Opening Day in 2015) and he was in a contract year.
Victor Martinez reportedly agreed to a 4-year $68 million contract that will take him through his age 39 season. A 4-year deal for a 36-year old player is a fool’s errand at best, financial suicide at worst.
The Mariners missed the playoffs by one game in 2014. They are hoping to be standing at the gates of the 2015 postseason and need to do something this offseason to improve the club while Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez are still in their prime years.
Risking $68 million on Martinez didn’t seem wise to me. Even if they made the playoffs with him in 2015. And if the Mariners had gone higher to outbid Detroit, it would have been completely insane.
There are other options available. It may not seem as flashy as Martinez, but it will get the job done. And no, I don’t mean Nelson Cruz (he wants a 5-year deal at the age of 34, and for more money per year than V-Mart).
We’ve talked about the possibility of trading for Evan Gattis. Now, it is being reported that the Braves intend to make Gattis their full-time LF in 2015. Now, that could simply be posturing to drive up Gattis’ value. But Gattis – who is much younger – hit .343 against lefties in 2014. He can be the DH, play in the outfield and catch – giving Mike Zunino a day off here and there.
Plus, Gattis is under club control until 2019 and will cost over that time – even with arbitration raises – less than one year of V-Mart’s new deal. But the cost of acquiring him is unknown. If the price is Taijuan Walker, absolutely not. If it’s Michael Saunders and a bullpen arm, you’d have to consider it.
I’m not saying Gattis is THE answer, but he may very well be. There are certainly other options available both in the trade market and in free agency. Billy Butler, Hanley Ramirez and Nick Markakis are all better at hitting lefties than anyone that Seattle threw out there at DH or RF in 2014.
In fact, one final note I’ll throw out there. How a player hits at a ballpark they will play 81 games per year should be taken into consideration. Here are the career slash lines of the players listed above (all but Gattis who has only played two games there).
Player 1: .219/.290/.357
Player 2: .391/.481/.478
Player 3: .325/.382/.483
Player 4: .283/.361/.339
Player 5: .298/.346/.545
Okay, to be fair, Player 2 has only played six games at Safeco, that’s Hanley Ramirez. Player 1, you all know as Condor. Of the other three, who would you rather have playing regularly at Safeco?
Player 3 has played 58 games there. Player 4 has played 34 there and Player 5 has played 30 there. Based on these numbers, you have to go with Player 3. Don’t you? That’s Billy Butler. Who will probably sign a three year deal worth about $12 million per year. And he turns 29, right after Opening Day.
Look, all I’m saying is that Martinez was not the right answer for a Seattle team that has done things the wrong way for far too long. It sucks that the M’s still have to face him several times a year, but I’m extremely glad they didn’t overspend to sign him.