Occasionally, MLB teams make moves that not even I feel like analyzing in 1,000-plus words. A few moves over the past several days have caught my eye, but haven’t grown into ideas so grand that I wanted to devote a full post to them. I deposit my thoughts on each here.
Victor Martinez signs with Tigers for four years, $68 million.
This move has drawn mixed reviews on Twitter and among the punditry, as long-term deals for good, old players always do. Martinez will be 36 next season, and 39 in the final year of this deal, which makes a $17-million annual salary seem a little steep. For some, that’s a big deal, and contributes to the sense that when the Tigers’ fall comes, it will come quickly.
I dissent from that opinion. To me, the more important half of the headline sentence above is the first half. Martinez will return to the Tigers, keeping intact the heart of a batting order that produced the fifth-best True Average in baseball in 2014. The money matters far less than we sometimes fall into thinking it does. It’s Mike Ilitch’s money, after all, not ours, and there’s no sign that the money is about to run out in Detroit. It may, but until then, gather ye rosebuds, Mr. Ilitch. Besides, Martinez will make $24 million less than Joe Mauer over the next four seasons. He’ll make $20 million and change less than Adrian Gonzalez. Does anyone want to argue that Martinez is less valuable than either of them? Good hitters cost money these days. Martinez is a very good hitter. Cheers to the Tigers for not letting him get away.
Tigers Trade Devon Travis to Blue Jays for Anthony Gose.
It’s amazing how a little bit of failure in MLB can go such a long way. Gose is beyond the point at which stardom must be hinted at or given up for dead, but he’s a modestly useful player, anyway. He runs the bases well, has a strong arm and plays good defense overall. He even flashes occasional offensive tools, and posted his best OBP to date in 2014.
It’s not that the Tigers got a discount on Gose, per se. They coughed up their would-be top prospect, in Travis, a second baseman who can really hit. It’s just that, prior even to this season, Gose would have been available only as a fairly high-priced chip in a prospect-for-veteran kind of trade. The Toronto organization got understandably down on Gose (not gave-up-on-him down, but down) after a third straight MLB stint went less than prettily, and Dave Dombrowski pounced.
Gose and Rajai Davis make a nice little platoon in center field for Detroit, if they turn out to be the final answer. They add up to a poor man’s Austin Jackson, and honestly, it’s not that poor a man. The Jays, meanwhile, leave themselves a whole lot of holes in the outfield, but if Travis progresses well come spring, they might be able to stop what has been a hideous gap at second base ever since the Aaron Hill trade.
The Marlins overcome their fear of commitment, sign Giancarlo Stanton for $325 million over 13 years.
I can’t believe this decision. As with Martinez, we must note that money is in no short supply, especially for the young and penurious Marlins. They could pay Stanton the $325 million over five years and still field a team around him.
Even so, I would not have pulled this trigger. Frankly, I think Stanton has more value to the Marlins as a trade chip, or did until he signed this monstrosity. I do think Miami will have a chance to win the NL East next season, but it won’t be a really good chance. Getting a fair return might have been like pulling teeth, but it would have been worth it. Miami always seems to be unable to amass sufficient depth to support their stars. A trade of Stanton could have changed that.
I sent an email to Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh, the co-hosts of Effectively Wild, before I heard the news, wondering whether Miami might do even better in dealing Stanton if they did so after locking him up long-term. Stanton is so young and so good that, although a long-term extension wouldn’t add a ton of surplus value, it would capture it, and force a team interested in dealing for Stanton to pay the value of, say, seven or eight years of Stanton, instead of just two.
This extension doesn’t capture that value; it spoils it. The contract is onerous, even though Stanton is likely to perform well enough to make it worthwhile. It also includes a no-trade clause, which takes whatever leverage the length of the deal might have given the team and shifts it to Stanton himself.
It boils down to this: If the Marlins can not only change their ways when it comes to investing consistently in winning, but also prove themselves more consistent and competent in the front office, this deal will look great. Stanton is a cornerstone 26 or 27 teams can only wish for. If the Marlins Marlin, though, this will be another mistake to add to their franchise’s long list.Next post: Fortunate Cubs Can Now Shift Focus from Martin to Montero
Previous post: Cubs Land La Stella, Braves Buy Back Vizcaino: Somebody Has the Next Move in Mind