$50 million deal looks worse with news Tigers will use Victor Martinez mostly at DH

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From the Tigers’ point of view I liked signing Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50 million deal last week. Initially, at least.

My assumption at the time was that they would use Martinez as their primary catcher for as long as he was somewhat passable behind the plate, getting an elite-hitting backstop for the first two or three years of the contract before perhaps shifting him to first base or designated hitter for the final year or two.

It turns out, my assumption about how Detroit plans to use Martinez was wrong.

Jason Beck of MLB.com reports that the Tigers will utilize Martinez as their primary designated hitter from Day 1 and will likely use him at catcher only to give Alex Avila days off. Now, that certainly doesn’t make Martinez useless, but the less time he spends at catcher the less value he has to the Tigers.

Compared to the average catcher, Martinez’s offense is elite. Compared to the average designated hitter, Martinez’s offense is merely good. This season MLB catchers as a whole produced a .686 OPS, which was the second-lowest of any position ahead of only shortstops. Meanwhile, designated hitters combined for a .758 OPS. And first basemen, corner outfielders, and designated hitters–the group of players teams typically choose from when picking a DH–combined for a .780 OPS.

Martinez has an .838 career OPS, including an .844 mark in 2010. As a DH he’s about 10 percent above average offensively. As a catcher he’s about 22 percent above average offensively. Or, put another way: If the Tigers start Martinez at catcher they can also have another big bat in the lineup at DH. If the Tigers start Martinez at DH, that other lineup spot goes to Avila, who hit .228 with a .656 OPS as a rookie after posting modest numbers in the minors.

There were plenty of risks involved in signing Martinez to a four-year, $50 million deal even when I thought the Tigers were adding him as their starting catcher. Adding him as their primary DH carries many of those same risks and does so without nearly as much of the upside.

Cardinals place Greg Holland on 10-day disabled list with hip impingement

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Cardinals right-handed reliever Greg Holland has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip impingement, per a team announcement on Saturday. In corresponding moves, catcher Carson Kelly (right hamstring strain) and lefty reliever Tyler Lyons (back strain) were activated from the disabled list, while catcher Steven Baron was optioned to Triple-A Memphis. The team has yet to reveal how long Holland is expected to be sidelined.

The 32-year-old reliever hasn’t looked quite himself this season, limping toward a 9.45 ERA, 10.1 BB/9 and 6.8 SO/9 in just 13 1/3 innings of work. It’s a concerning departure from the sub-4.00 ERA and NL-leading 41 saves he posted with the Rockies in 2017, though a brief stay on the disabled list may help him iron out some of the issues that have prevented him from replicating those numbers in 2018. This is the first major injury he’s sustained since 2015, when he underwent surgery to repair a torn UCL in his pitching arm; he doesn’t appear to have a history of hip issues, either.

Lyons, 30, will slot back into the bullpen while Holland recovers. The left-hander landed on the 10-day disabled list in mid-May after pitching to a 6.17 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 across 11 2/3 innings — underwhelming results, to be sure, but nothing close to Holland’s career-worst output. Lyons saw mixed results in two rehab starts with Double-A Springfield earlier this month, allowing two runs on two hits and recording one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.