Posted: 11 a.m. Nov. 23, 2010 | Updated: 12:24 p.m. today Tigers reportedly land free agent Victor Martinez
By JOHN LOWE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
It looks like the Detroit Tigers have found their big hitter.
According to two reports, they have signed free agent Victor Martinez to a four-year contract.
Martinez, a switch-hitter, is expected to be the Tigers' primary designated hitter and to serve as the No. 2 catcher behind Alex Avila.
The deal was first reported as close this morning by the Venezuelan Web site El Nacional. The Boston-based csnne.com then reported that the Tigers had signed Martinez for four years at $50 million.
According to El Nacional, Martinez turned down a four-year, $48-million offer from the Orioles.
It is unlikely the Tigers will announce the deal until Martinez, 31, passes a physical.
Martinez batted .302 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs for the Red Sox this season. Of the four major free-agent hitters available, he makes the most sense for the Tigers for a few reasons.
He's the only one who can catch. Martinez also can play first base when Miguel Cabrera takes a day off. So the Tigers' bench will have as many players as usual, even though they'll now have something close to a full-time DH.
He's the only one of the four who's a switch-hitter. When Martinez bats in the fifth spot behind Cabrera, the opposition will never gain a left-vs.-left or right-vs.-right matchup by walking Cabrera. So if Cabrera doesn't win the MVP today, he might have won something better: A proven run-producing hitter to bat behind him who will force the opposition to pitch to him more.
Cabrera drew 32 intentional walks this season, more than twice as many as any other AL hitter. Most of those came in the second half of the season, when the Tigers didn't have any hot nor established hitter to put behind him in the fifth spot.
In his career with Cleveland and Boston, Martinez has five times hit at least 20 homers and three times driven in at least 100 runs.
The other three big free-agent hitters remain on the market: Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn (who are left-handed hitters) and Jayson Werth (right-handed).
The Tigers have been, by far, the most aggressive team in the two weeks since free agency began. They have filled their two biggest stated needs by signing Martinez and right-handed setup reliever Joaquin Benoit, a free agent from Tampa Bay.
It had been clear for months that the Tigers would have plenty of money to spend this off-season. Several big contracts on their payroll expired at the conclusion of this season -- especially those of Magglio Ordonez, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and his staff plunged right into the free-agent bidding.
By signing Martinez, the Tigers surrender their first-round pick in next June's amateur draft to Boston. The pick is 19th overall. The Tigers also gave up their first-round pick last winter in signing free-agent reliever Jose Valverde.
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