MLB Hot Stove Analysis: Victor Martinez, Aubrey Huff
The Detroit Tigers are said to be close to signing free agent catcher Victor Martinez to a four-year $50 million deal. Martinez, 32 in December, is coming off a .302/.351/.493 season for the Red Sox where he hit 20 home runs and drove in 79 runs, hitting in the middle of the Sox lineup. He will step in as the Tigers every day catcher for at least the first two years of the deal and perhaps shift to a Jorge Posada-like DH/catcher time share as he gets into the latter part of the deal.
This is a good signing for the Tigers, despite the long-term commitment, because they believe they have a two or three-year window of opportunity to win now, led by a core consisting of Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Martinez has earned rave reviews throughout his career for his leadership and work ethic in Cleveland and Boston and will be a great addition to their club house.
Where this deal is tricky is Martinez is a below average defensive catcher and at his advanced age, will only get worse. Also, last season the switch-hitting catcher developed a pretty extreme platoon split, hitting right-handed pitching for a .257/.315/.379 clip compared to .400/.431/.742 against left-handed pitching. This could have been a one-year aberration or the result of an injury, but is worth mentioning.
The Red Sox lose out on Martinez, after offering three-years $32 million and four-years $40 million. The Red Sox are believed to have faith in Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s ability to hold down the position.
The Giants announced they re-signed Aubrey Huff today. Huff will receive two-years $22 million. Last season Huff was an offensive force for the World Series winning Giants, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI in a very tough hitting environment in AT&T Park.
Huff will be 34 in 2011 and does not have a strong track record for consistent production with down years in 2005, 2007 and 2009, putting him on track for another bad year in 2011, should he remain on the every-other-year track.
It is not uncommon for organizations coming off winning seasons to want to bring back their veteran players (think: Red Sox and Mike Lowell following their 2007 championship). Here is the only problem: the Giants best prospect, Brandon Belt, is near major-league ready and also plays first base.
Belt, 23 in 2011, was one of the biggest success stories in 2010, as he hit .352/.455/.620 with 23 home runs between advanced A-ball and AAA. He will likely start the season in AAA and barring any set-backs, could be ready for the Show as early as mid-season. I suppose it is important to note Huff could shift to right field, but that is far from an ideal solution.