Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bullet Points: Victor, J Upton & Jeter

The Detroit Tigers agreed to a four year, $50MM contract with Victor Martinez yesterday.
  • If the Tigers plan to play Martinez almost exclusively at catcher, the deal is a steal. Martinez hit .303/.381/.480 in 2009 and followed that up with a .302/.351/.493 season in 2010. For comparison's sake, Mauer's career line of .327/.407/.481 is close to Martinez's last two seasons offensively. Mauer is entering year one of an eight-year, $184MM contract. Of course, Mauer is leaps and bounds better than Victor defensively and has actually been quite a bit healthier over the last several years. 
  • Martinez would be a huge upgrade offensively over Gerald Laird (.207/.263/.304 last year) and Alex Avila (.228/.316/.340), although Laird is probably the best defensive catcher in baseball. Detroit is expected to continue to platoon Avila and Laird, while giving Martinez maybe 15 starts at catcher with almost all the rest of his starts coming as a designated hitter because of Martinez's lack of defense at the catcher position. 
  • Detroit got only a .259/.341/.373 line out of the DH position last year, so even if Martinez doesn't improve upon his season from a year ago his .302/.351/.493 line would be a major upgrade offensively with zero risk on the defensive side since, obviously, the DH doesn't play defense. However, with several aging, very good hitters on the market, the Tigers could have potentially signed someone like Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero or even Jim Thome to DH while giving Martinez most of the starts at catcher. As a Twins fan, it's tough to see such a good player like Martinez sign with the Tigers, but hearing they plan on using him almost exclusively at DH softens the blow.
  • Regardless, getting Victor Martinez for four years and just over $12MM per year is a steal, and his poor defense undoubtedly cost him a chance to probably double his money. The Tigers will benefit quite a bit from this signing, hopefully not enough to surpass our Twins anytime soon though.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are apparently willing to trade 23-year-old superstar Justin Upton, although they reportedly need to "clearly win the trade." (And just ignore the fact that the Twitter link has Jon Heyman calling Upton a 21-year-old. It's not like he covers baseball for a living. Oh wait.)
  • This is why it's extremely dangerous to give a new GM only a two-year contract. Kevin Towers knows if he doesn't win in the next two years, or at least show substantial progress, he'll need another job. Arizona likely won't bring back Brandon Webb, who's been hurt for almost two years anyways, and they have several gaping holes to fill. The only way this team may contend soon is if they trade Upton for solid young players AND one or two proven, above-average veterans. So Towers is pushing his best asset to the middle of the table and hoping he gets an offer he can't refuse. I think it will be a mistake if they trade him.
  • As a 21-year-old in 2009, Upton hit .300/.366/.532, adding 26 home runs and 20 steals. Just because he's young doesn't mean he's necessarily going to improve over the next four years, and he's undoubtedly only available because he regressed slightly this past season. However, even if Upton just matches his 2009 season, he's a legitimate 5-tool star and he's signed to a team-friendly contract that will pay him $51MM over the next four years.
  • Can the Twins make an offer for Upton that would be considered? I don't think so. Arizona likely would prefer a solid mid-rotation starter, which I think the Twins could part with in Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey. However, that would be just a starting point. I think the Twins would need to offer something like Kevin Slowey, Denard Span, One of Aaron Hicks or Kyle Gibson, and probably a slightly lower tier prospect like Ben Revere. That's an awful lot to give up for one player, and even then I'm not sure Arizona wouldn't receive a better offer. Sorry, Twins fans, I think we need to cross Justin Upton off of our Christmas lists.

The Yankees have reportedly offered Derek Jeter a 3-year, $45MM contract, but Jeter and his agent are looking for "more money and more years." Brian Cashman apparently has told Jeter to test the market.
  • This is getting ridiculous. Jeter is likely looking for something like 5 years and $100MM, but that's outrageous. Despite winning yet another gold glove this year, Jeter remains a below average defensive shortstop according to every defensive statistic there is, as well as scouts who continue to watch him play. He wins gold gloves because he's highly respected by the players and coaches who vote for them.
  • I love Jeter. He's certainly one of my favorite athletes in sports, but the facts are the facts. He's coming off the worst season of his career, hitting just .270/.340/.370. (JJ Hardy had a better OPS, although in less games, for comparison's sake.) He'll be 37 years old for the 2011 season. The argument that 2010 was "just an off year for him" is silly in my opinion, because if anything 2009 would seem to be the outlier over the last three years. As a 35-year-old Jeter in 2008 hit just .300/.363/.408, and at the time his .771 OPS was his worst since his 15 game cup of coffee as a rookie in 1995. He bounced back with a very good .334/.406/.465 season in 2009, before really falling off this year.
  • There's only one team that may give Jeter more than $15MM a year for three years. The Boston Red Sox. I don't think they will, because Jeter is clearly declining and Boston definitely doesn't want to pay a .250 hitter with no power $20MM a year or close to it when he's 40 years old. However, with Beltre unlikely to re-sign there, they will need a third baseman. If they offered Jeter something like 4 years and $68MM, I think Jeter would seriously consider it. If nothing else, the Yankees would match the contract, and Boston would now have forced their biggest rival to pay an extra $20-25MM to a declining player.
  • Ultimately, I think Jeter re-signs in New York for something like three years and $50MM. The Yankees have the deepest pockets in baseball, and even if Jeter continues to decline, he's worth $17MM a year to that franchise on name recognition alone. These negotiations might get messy, but like everyone else, I'd be shocked if Jeter wasn't a Yankee on opening day.


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